What’s in a Name? Part 2: Characters & Places

A friend of mine, Jeanie London, has published over thirty novels (In the Cold is my favorite!). Most, if not all, of her stories include names of family members and friends. Two of the books I’ve read include her niece and nephews, whom I have known since they were entering elementary school. She doesn’t necessarily make real people into her characters, but it is kind of neat that she’s included them.

In Between the Lies, I included my best friend’s name on a neon sign — “Jami’s Fried Chicken – Voted Best in Oregon,” an homage to her teaching me how to make the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. I also morphed her two daughters’ names to become Jazmyn Riley, main character Cari’s colleague and friend. One of the basketball players, Walker Jamison, is also a shout out to Jami, who played basketball in high school. The other player mentioned in the story, Dan Morrisette, was named as a tribute to two family members who lost their lives to cancer: my brother-in-law Dan (known as Danny to his family — the character’s parents also call their son Danny), and my father, whose middle name was Morris. Good, faithful men taken way too soon.

The other real character in the story is Canyonville librarian Judy Jones, a sweet friend of my mother who so graciously allowed my first book, Passion Fish, to be one of their book club’s selections.

Aleynekov was the last name of my former next door neighbors — and story inspiration Dmitry’s inlaws’ last name (they weren’t evil, though). I’d originally had my female assassin, Evgenia Aleynekova, named Elena Kovach, but I thought readers would figure out too quickly it was a play on Aleynekov’s last name. Besides, my friend Elena Dimitrova and her husband were so helpful with the Bulgarian in the book and trailer, I didn’t want a bad person sharing her name!

As I’ve noted, Canyonville and Bainbridge Island are real places — Jami and I had a blast doing “research” for my book, always taking pictures to help me better describe scenes. St. Eustachius University is based on Seattle Pacific University. I considered using the real name, but given some people at the fictional university aren’t so nice, I didn’t want anyone thinking I was basing my characters on real people. My husband helped me find a suitable new name by searching saints’  names; I wanted the name to be the patron saint of something linked to a theme in the book. Keep that in mind as you read…

I hope it makes the reading more interesting knowing some of the thought that went into various names. And just FYI, Tristan Saunders was originally going to be Andrew Chastaine…a name I still like and may use in another book down the road.

Now, go read Between the Lies and tell me what you think!


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