What’s in a name?

The UK recently welcomed our newest member of the Royal Family. Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge – surely the stuff of fantasy and fairytale? It may be a bit sexist these days to say so, but doesn’t every little girl want to be a princess? To my generation, Diana was the ultimate fairy princess. This is Diana’s granddaughter, how scary is that? And how old do I suddenly feel?

And her name? How gorgeously traditional. Somehow Princess Kylie or Miley or Taylor doesn’t have quite the same ring. I remember how I sweated blood over my own daughter’s name. Nothing we liked seemed to go with our surname, Lilley – Lauren Lilley anyone? I don’t think so! She isn’t a cartoon character. And after all that soul-searching, what happened? As soon as she was old enough to talk, she wouldn’t answer to anything but Princess Rosie, who was a cartoon character from one of her picture books.

Princess bride

The new royal baby made me think about character names and how notoriously difficult they can be. They can paint an instant picture for the reader, not always the one the writer intends. Do we really want a hero called Norman or Wilbur? But doesn’t Billy Idol have the best name ever for a front man? We wouldn’t want our heroine to be saddled with something like Gladys, which happens to be my mother’s name and also my grandmother’s, but happily not mine.

My own name is Susan Ann. How I always longed to be called Suzanne, which I thought was much more glamorous. But I ended up being Sue to everyone, including on my official application to the Passport Office. I wonder why they weren’t very impressed that I’d somehow forgotten I ever had a proper name. The origin of the name Susan is Hebrew and it means lily, the flower. I can’t remember if I knew this when I met my husband but I’ve always been intrigued that his name is Lilley. Perhaps fate meant us to be together. Or maybe I was attracted to his Viking heritage as well as his long rock-star hair.

In my first novel ANOTHER SUMMER, I decided to give Joe and Jake the same initials. I think it helps to emphasise their similarities and underlines the reason why Evie finds it so hard to choose between them.

There’s a character called Alannah in my new novel HIGH HOPES. She was named after Alannah Myles, her father’s big crush in the ‘Black Velvet’ days. I think this is a nice hook into her back story, especially as her father only finds out about her as the novel progresses. One of my favourite characters in HIGH HOPES is called Dixie. But you’ll need to read the novel to find out why.

(first published by Storyfinds 29.06.15)