Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Royal Guest Appearance

Jacqueline here ... I knew this week would be a tough one, not only because I am in the midst of a minor move and also trying, at last, to tidy my office at home, but because the cable internet guy is coming in today to set up a new system for us – we hope. So, I asked mystery maven Rhys Bowen if she would be a guest – which was great timing as it coincides with publication of her new novel: Royal Flush

So, here’s a post from Rhys (and there’s a treat involved - Rhys will be giving away some brilliant prizes as part of a “Contest Extra” – including signed copies of her book and English tea goodies to those who respond to this blog by visiting her website and including the name of this blog when they email Rhys. More competition details at the end of the post).

What's In A Name

from Rhys Bowen

A writer, I believe it was Elmore Leonard, once said that once he knew a character’s name, he knew all about him. I tend to agree with that. I think the names we give our characters are incredibly important. I have, on occasion, given a character a name, only to find the story creeping along at a snail’s pace. Then one day the character says to me, ‘You know, I’m not Jim, I’m Michael.” And once I’ve changed the name the story comes together and I am there with my character, experiencing events as the story unfolds.

In my Constable Evans series I enjoyed portraying the funny nicknames of the Welsh. Because they only have so few last names, they often find themselves with ten Evanses or Joneses in one village and thus have to differentiate them with nicknames. In my books Evans-the-Meat is the butcher and Evans-the-Milk is the dairyman. There are even funnier ones—a village that had a travel agent called Evans-there-and-back and an undertaker called Evans-One-way.

But in my Royal Spyness series names have taken on a whole new dimension. I’ve used them to poke fun at the British class system. I think Brits take the cake for really silly names. I have to confess at this point that I married into an upper class family with a hyphenated surname (and a pain it is too as most computers can’t handle a hyphen). We have all manner of cousins with funny nicknames, including a distinguished elderly lady called Puff (I’ve no idea what her real name is). So I’ve made my heroine’s brother, the duke be nicknamed Binky and his wife Fig. Their son is Podge. But it’s with surnames that I’ve really had a ball. Who wouldn’t? After all I really had a girl at school called Amanda Featherstonehaugh-Skelley (pronounced Fanshaw-Skelley. The last name Chomondley is pronounced Chumley, Beachamp is Beecham and Fotheringay is Fungey. Aren’t they delightfully silly?

In my new book, Royal Flush, I have a young man whose last name is Beasley-Bottome. Imagine being saddled with that. Actually I hardly have to exaggerate at all to come up with names designed to produce a chuckle. The onjly challenge I have had is to fit in the names of people who have won the right in a charity auction to appear as a character in my books. I had a real challenge with a woman who wanted her three daughters to appear. Their names were Jensen, Reagan and Danika Hedley. Hardly the sort of name that Georgie’s friends would be called. So I made them American girls, who went to the same ladies seminary as Mrs. Simpson. And then there was Merion Sauer. Another challenge. I elevated her to the peerage and made her the Countess Von Sauer, which I hope pleased her.

So if you win the right to be a character in one of my books one day, I may have to give you a silly nickname! And if you come across a particularly silly English surname, please let me know about it.

Thanks to all the Naked Authors (I’ve tactfully averted my eyes) for letting me visit their blog. Lady Georgie’s third madcap adventure, Royal Flush, is in stores on July 7th. Details of my tour schedule are on my website,, and click on Rhys on the Road.

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