Thursday, 27 July 2017

What’s in a Name? More Than You Think! - Guest Post by Susannah Sandlin

Illumination, the last book in the Penton Legacy series, released earlier this month. I finally managed to get hold of a print copy this week, so expect a review soon.

Today Susannah is visiting my blog with a guest post about names.

What’s in a Name? More Than You Think!
by Susannah Sandlin

“How do you name your characters?” It’s one of the common questions authors get, and the answers vary from author to author. Here are my methods:

A name drops out of the ether.
Shay Underwood, the heroine of ILLUMINATION, was one of those. The name just came to me, I liked it, it wasn’t too similar to any other major characters in my books, and I kept it. Ditto with the hero, Nikolas Dimitrou, aka Nik. He is half Greek. It sounds Greek. I kept it. Ditto with the hero of the previous Penton book, Cage Reynolds.

A family or acquaintance name fits the character.
I did this more often in my early books. Drusilla Jane “DJ” Jaco, the heroine of my Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (written as Suzanne Johnson) is a mashed-up version of my great-grandmothers Drusilla Jane Harris and Ida Jaco. Quince Randolph pays homage to my great-grandfather Rand Sandlin. And, yes, my pen is also that of my gggg-grandmother Susannah Sandlin (who’s probably spinning in her grave up in Bug Tussle, Alabama). I used a slew of my own and my pets’ names in my book LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP (the hero, Shane, was named after my Irish terrier; my rott-chow-triever Tanker played himself). The surname of my neighbors in New Orleans was Zrakovi, which I took as my villain’s name in the Sentinels books.

I look for a name with a specific meaning, or that’s right for the era or location.
I knew the head of my Penton Legacy vampire scathe (or family) was in his human life an Irish farmer, so what’s more Irish than Murphy? And Aidan, originally Áodhán, is an old Gaelic name. In the Sentinels series, the character of Alex needed a strong, warrior-like name to match his nature, so I chose Alexander and softened it as a nod to his Louisiana mama by giving him the (to him) embarrassing middle name of Basile.

I look for pronounceable names that are simple but distinctive.
One of my favorite tricks is using surnames as given names. The Penton Legacy character of Mirren Kincaid drew his first name from, yep, actress Helen Mirren (shhh…don’t tell him). I liked the last name Gentry, so I gave it to my hero of WILD MAN’S CURSE as a first name: Gentry Broussard. I also like ironic names, which is why I named Penton’s eagle shifter Robin (her sister is named Wren). My STORM FORCE heroine is named after a nearby university, Emory, although she has shortened it to Mori.

I keep my minor character names simple.
Thus, we have names like Jonathan, David, Michael and Linda—nice names but not ones I’m likely to use for hero or heroine material.

But naming characters has its pitfalls.

You don’t want too many characters with similar names.
I learned that lesson the hard way when I was writing Penton #2, ABSOLUTION, the first book in which the character of Cage Reynolds makes an appearance. His original name was Marcus, but I realized in the course of revision that I had a Mirren, a Mark, a Melissa, a Matthias—and now a Marcus. The other four were already in the previous book so that barn door had closed. I could, however, change “Marcus” to “Cage.”

You don’t want use names with baggage.
I mean, would you want a hero named Adolph or Hitler? ‘Nuff said.

Make sure old-fashioned names aren’t TOO old-fashioned.
I mean, “Sarah” is a timeless name, but a heroine named Bertha or Gertrude? Uh, probably not. My grandmother was Bertha, so I named a hurricane for her in STORM FORCE; I wasn’t saddling a character with her name, sweet woman that she was.

Make sure your name is right for the era.
Aidan Murphy’s original name was Galen, right up until my “alpha reader” got her draft of REDEMPTION. She hated the name Galen so much that she did some research and found that the name Galen was not used in Ireland in Aidan’s human lifetime of the early 1600s and therefore I had to change it. Áodhán, however, was in use, so Galen became Aidan.

Avoid names from popular books in the same or similar genre.
Aidan’s heroine, Krys (named after the fast-food chain, Krystal Hamburgers), was originally named Bethany, aka Beth. Somewhere along the way, I realized Beth was the name of the heroine in JR Ward’s first Black Dagger Brotherhood book, so while Galen became Aidan, Beth became Krys. Boy, was that manuscript a mess as I tried to catch all the changed names!

So, how do you get your names? It’s a more complex process than one might think! Do you have a favorite name from a book you’ve read lately? I’ll give away a $10 Amazon gift card (or equivalent order from Book Depository if outside the U.S.) to a commenter*. In the U.S., $10 will buy the Kindle versions of the entire five-book Penton Legacy series plus the Penton 3.5 spinoff, STORM FORCE, through the end of this month!

About Illumination:

He came to Penton seeking peace. Nik Dimitrou joined the Army to escape his family legacy, only to have his psychic abilities exploited as a weapon. Now, as a civilian, he turns to the bottle to veil the images that haunt his mind whenever he touches anyone—except vampires. With them, he has finally found a home. But as Penton, Alabama, moves into open warfare with the Vampire Tribunal, Nik finds himself a linchpin in the deepening conflict, not to mention facing a transformation in his own body more frightening than anything he’s encountered before.

She wanted to change the world. Shay Underwood watched her Peace Corps parents move from one third world country to another—until both died following an outbreak of fever. Driven to her own career in tropical medicine, Shay works in New Orleans to cure the disease that killed her parents—until a careless weekend outing draws her into a world far more dangerous than the diseases she studies: a vampire society engaged in human trafficking and on the verge of all-out war.

Two cities, two near-strangers, one world. With Penton rebellion leader Aidan Murphy making risky choices and chief vampire lieutenant Mirren Kincaid forced to take a leadership role in Penton, it will fall to two outsiders, Nik and Shay, to find a way for the town—and themselves—to survive in this much-anticipated conclusion to the multiple award-winning Penton Legacy series.

Buy from Amazon

The entire Penton Legacy Series leading up to ILLUMINATION (Redemption, Absolution, Omega, and Allegiance, as well as the spinoff Storm Force—Penton 3.5—are on sale for 99 cents each for Kindle through July 31. You can find the series here and Storm Force here.)

About the Author:

Susannah Sandlin writes award-winning paranormal romance, including the popular Penton Legacy series, and romantic suspense and thrillers, including two series, The Collectors and Wilds of the Bayou. Writing as Suzanne Johnson, she writes the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series and a number of standalones. Suzanne grew up in Alabama halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’s birthplace and lived in New Orleans for fifteen years, so she has a refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of college football and fried gator on a stick. She currently lives in Auburn, Alabama, where she is a full-time author who does copy editing for other authors on the side through



Twitter: @SusannahSandlin, @Suzanne_Johnson


*comment before August 4, 2017 to be entered in the giveaway*
Winner = Liz S.


miki said...

Very interesting, i remember how you told us about a few of these but this time we get to know all of them^^
a favourite name? only for feline shifter^^ i love Curran from kate daniels series because i can't confound it with anyone else and Tybalt from theseries by seanan mcguire October daye series because it really fit and it has meaning too

But i must say that illumination is more than a good book, a real must read ( but in order so grab teh first books while you cabn if you haven't done it yet)

thanks for teh giveaway too

Roger Simmons said...

Very interesting blog on names, thanks. I also remember about Edward Simmons, back when you were looking for a proper English name. Of course one of my favorites was Lucy, LOL. I had forgotten Robin's sister is Wren.

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Miki....I like Curran as a name, too. Wasn't Tybalt taken from Shakespeare? I can't remember!

@Roger....You are never going to forgive me for Lucy--LOL. And of course, we can't forget Edward Simmons!

Susan Meek said...

I've read a couple of books with Caliban as a character name. One was actually a prequel of The Tempest, so the name made sense. The other had nothing to do with The Tempest, guess the author just liked the name Caliban.

Jillian said...

Very cool! I love reading how characters got their names. It's vital they have the right one!

Liz S. said...

Love the insight in picking your character names. The right name is very important. I love Roarke's name from J.D.Robb's In Death series.

BookLady said...

Congrats on the new release! Sherrily Kenyon has some very interesting names in her Dark Hunter series. Acheron, Soteria (Tori), Kyrian, Talon, and Zarek are just a few.

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Susan--I like Caliban as a name. Apparently, I missed the boat on stealing names from Shakespeare!

@Jillian--I agree, and I know when I start thinking of them as real people I've hit on the right one. Wait...that might make me a crazy author, but oh well... :-)

@Liz....I also like Roarke as a name. It's a great example of using a name that might normally be thought of as a surname. And I really do need to read that series. There are so many books now that it's daunting!

@BookLady...Thank you! Yes, I think Sherrilyn is really good at making up names that don't sound made up--they aren't hard to pronounce, and they always fit.

Barbara E. said...

I really enjoyed the post. I've been reading Anne Bishop and she uses a lot of real people's names, which I think is kind of cool, since they're mentioned in the acknowledgements. A name I like that I've read lately is Connor, I think it's a strong name.

Bube said...

Lachlain from Hunger Like no Other by Kresley Cole :)
Thank you for the great post,enjoyed reading :)