What’s in a name?

Picking names is both one of the joys and challenges of being an author.

I’ve always felt a bit envious of those authors who have a set idea of a title from the moment they start drafting their novels. I would go on Twitter and look up posts from the writing community, and sense that I was the only one who had a nameless novel.

When I started writing Star in the Shadows, I originally named it Starting Over, though I never truly felt wedded to the title. Like my friend and beta-reader said, it sounded too much like a self-help book! And indeed, when I googled it, there were already books with that title. It just wasn’t original enough. So Starting Over turned out to be a dead-end.

I had to go back through the manuscript and write down key words and phrases to find title ideas. It was tough to stay away from titles that felt like they belonged to another genre, like crime fiction.

A lot of the words and phrases I came up with centred around shadows, the past, running away, and fame. These themes feel so integral to the story that I wanted them to be reflected in the title of the book.

Finally I whittled my ideas down to a shortlist of five. I made sure to google them to check they weren’t already in use or were too common, and then asked a group of friends to help out with the final selection!

That’s what led me to Star in the Shadows. The main character is indeed a star and we meet her when she’s at the height of her fame, but she’s plagued by the shadows of her past. It felt like the right fit, and was original enough that it hadn’t already been used.

So there we have it – Star in the Shadows. I hope you like it as much as I do!

Character names

Choosing names for characters was less hand-wringing than choosing a title for the book. Some of them I just knew I wanted, and others had to go through several changes. Fortunately there are so many name websites now that looking up names and their meanings is just a few clicks away, which makes an author’s life easier!

Kiara and Shane – I would love to say there was a deeper hidden meaning behind the names of my two beloved main characters, but there isn’t. I just liked the names and once I had chosen them I couldn’t imagine changing them.

Victor – this character has overcome things from his past and I wanted to symbolise that through his name, which of course means victor or conqueror.

Sarah – when I was writing the character of Sarah, I didn’t even realise that the name I had picked was in fact the name of one of my oldest and closest friends! Fortunately Sarah is a very likeable character so no harm done.

Kiara’s mum – this was the name that caused me the most difficulty. I originally named the character Kathleen but realised with a jolt that it was my late nan’s name. Given that the character in question was unfaithful and abandoned her child, I didn’t think it would be a good idea to use the name of a much-loved and sorely missed family member! Eventually I trawled through a list of popular American names in the 60s and 70s and settled on Suzanne.

I also took names from people I know. Jess the barmaid and Marianna (the fake name Kiara uses when delivering drugs) were colleagues of mine at the time I was writing the book. I got the name Alicia from a girl I knew at school – who happens to also be a singer and someone who I remember as always being sweet and kind.

Picking names can be fun, but it can also be irritatingly stressful! Hopefully picking a name for my baby (due March 2019) won’t be too hard!

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