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A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

A Poppy by any other name…

Until I’ve found a name that fits, I find it really hard to write any character… hence I have a lovely collection of baby naming books as well as a long list of bookmarked internet pages pertaining to surnames and name meanings.

Something I always do is Google my character’s names. I’m kind of fascinated to discover what my characters get up to when I’m not directing the course of their fictional lives.

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Originally, the main character in my book Dead Jealous was called Poppy St John. That’s how she appeared to me. When I Googled her name, I found that Poppy St John was the name of the heroine in a book called The Far Horizon by Lucas Malet published in the 1850s. She is an actress married to an ‘unfortunate playwright’. I managed to find a review from the New York Times and was totally sold on the name when I read:

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Yes! What a feisty role model for my headstrong heroine, I thought…

That was until the publisher asked me to change her name.

 NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

The name Poppy St John was so in my head that I really couldn’t imagine writing about a character by any other name! After a short time of sulking, beating my breast and throwing things I calmed down.

Poppy was Poppy, right? Just because I needed to change her surname needn’t mean everything would fall apart… that she would somehow fade from my imagination… like the name of that kid I sat next to in nursery school who gave me his sock puppet when I lost mine.

Maybe if I came up with something LIKE St John it wouldn’t be so bad.

But I kind of liked that her surname was St Something. I knew that people pronounced St John as Singen, but to me she’d always been Saint John – it always sounded so classic and English. So… maybe there was another name like that… one that didn’t have two ways of pronouncing it?

In my internet searching I came across the name St Clare. Nice, I thought. But what if the publisher wasn’t happy with a saints name full stop? Gahh! That was when I found a whole load of names derived from St Clare. Among them was:

SINCLAIR

Wow! It sounded just like St Clair, but it wasn’t. I was so happy to land on the name that I immediately emailed my editor. She was sold on it too! So that’s how Poppy got a name makeover. And the weird thing is, it feels right. Even though in my imagination she’d been Poppy St John for so long… Poppy Sinclair is now who she is – out there in the world, and in my head.

As for on Google, apparently Poppy Sinclair (when not finding dead bodies) is a model/burlesque dancer. And according to The Urban Dictionary, Poppy Sinclair means ‘pure beauty’ or ‘utter perfection’. I’m not sure either of those definitions fits my Poppy, but I’ll take it!

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Sharon Jones
Website|Blog|Goodreads|Facebook|Twitter
Undiscovered Voices 2012 winner, Sharon Jones, has been writing since childhood. While studying for a degree in politics and then a Masters in theology, she worked in two independent bookshops where she developed a love of young adult fiction. Sharon gained a doctorate in the theology of story whilst being den mother to 500 undergraduates and has taught courses on everything from the philosophy of education to the history of Neo-Paganism. Having lived in Liverpool, Cambridge, Warwick and Colchester, she now lives back in her native Lancashire with a giant white poodle, Harvey.

DEAD JEALOUS, the first Poppy Sinclair Thriller, is available from all good bookshops!

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2 comments on “A Poppy by any other name…

  1. Abi Burlingham
    July 17, 2013

    Aw, what a lovely tale, Sharon, and Poppy Sinclair sounds just fab x

  2. Rose Mannering
    July 25, 2013

    Names are so important to me too so I know I’d freak out at first if I had to change one. It sounds like you got a really fit the second time around though 🙂

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This entry was posted on July 17, 2013 by and tagged , , , , .

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