What’s in a name?

IMG_0543Naming your son or daughter is probably one of the most important acts you perform for them, apart from their initial conception that is, but there are patterns to guide you.

Many choose family names that resonate through the generations, such as have been given Charlotte Elizabeth Diana Cambridge. Others choose names that cannot be abbreviated such as Ian, Neil, Claire or Carl, or those which are already abbreviations (Syd, Tom). Some deliberately choose names that do not tell any casual observer the gender Alex, Sandy, Leslie or Lyndsey. Vast numbers will chose names because of their religion and some will make up a name (Johnetta, Nigella) and a few put two names together (John-David).

I find picking the names for the characters in my books to be incredibly tricky as the name has to work for the character and the plot and also not offend anyone who already has that name.

In A Set of Lies Carl Witherby has come from my earlier books but I had to find names for the characters who became Skye Lacey, Fergal Shepherd, Ennor Jolliffe and Claude Olivierre.

The girl who became Skye had to have an unconventional and youthful name; one syllable (to go well with Lacey). Colin and I had had a lovely holiday on the Isle of Skye and once thought of as a name it worked.

Fergal Shepherd was more difficult. He started out as Hamish Macdonald and was Andy Wilkinson for a time but I was unhappy with both of these –  Skye and Hamish, Skye and Andy, nope…. neither felt right and there were too many real people with those names. One evening last December, as Colin and I sat in a bar in Oxford we looked at the oars strung up on the wall above us, with the names of the crews painted on them. We started mixing and matching. There was a Fergal on one and there was a Shepherd on another – and so Fergal Shepherd was born.

Now Claude Olivierre, he really was difficult. His name had to be unique, unusual, vaguely Jersey or Caribbean with a touch of French. Again the first name had to be a single syllable, vaguely middle-aged and not a little pompous.

Ennor Jolliffe had to be Cornish. Jolliffe is a common surname in the part of Cornwall Ennor came from and, a quick look through a Cornish-English dictionary I just happened to have to hand, found Ennor as a word for stranger, outcast, borderer – and that fitted

Googling the names it appears there are no Fergal Shepherds or Ennor Jolliffes or Claude Olivierres to be upset by my using their names but I have to apologise to the four Skye Laceys (in USA and Australia) for borrowing their name.

Perhaps they will read A Set of Lies and let me know what they think.

A year ago… In another world…

OxfordThis time last year the main characters in A Set of Lies had yet to set out on their task – to solve a mystery by finding clues they do not know exist.

Fergal Shepherd is just about to start working for Sir Arthur Lacey in Oxford. He had been employed to research Sir Arthur’s family history and is nothing to do with Sir Arthur’s political office.

Skye Lacey, having long ago give up any thoughts of doing anything else, is caring for her bed-ridden Aunt Audrey (Sir Arthur’s sister) in their old family home on the Isle of Wight.

Professor Sir Carl Witherby, respected historian, academic and media personality, is looking forward to a long and peaceful summer in Cambridge.

Little do they know what the next month has in store for them.