Our topic at the SFF Seven this week concerns the reality of having to change names. We're asking the crew if they've ever had to change the name(s) of a character or place in a book after we'd drafted it? Who is the character who will forever go by their "unpublished" name in our minds?
I don’t usually have to change the names of the characters or the books but I have a few vignettes to share…
My first book was Song of the Nile in my head because it involved a priestess who sang paeans to Sobek the Crocodile God in ancient Egypt. I sold it to Carina Press in the summer of 2011 as Song of the Nile. They worked on it as Song of the Nile – I even have the first cover art showing that title (which I can’t share because it isn’t “mine”). I freaking loved that title.
Then in late 2011 Stephanie Dray, a well-known author of ancient Egyptian romance published…you guess it – Song of the Nile. Since I wasn’t even published yet, I didn’t want to look as though I was trying to copy her, even though she was writing about Roman-Cleopatra time and I was back in 1550 BCE. I know titles can’t be copyrighted but it felt wrong to me to have the same title on my book. She, by the way, was lovely to me when my book did come out, in January 2012, had me on her blog, guested on my blog – a really affirming model of an established author going out of her way to help a newbie. So Carina Press re-titled my book as Priestess of the Nile. Which was fine and also fit the heroine.
Ah but the story isn’t done. In late 2019 I put out a new book in my Gods of Egypt series and rather defiantly titled it Song of the Nile. Ta da! The heroine is a harpist at Pharaoh’s court. I figured eight years later and me with 40+ books in various genres to my credit (and people being somewhat more understanding about the fact that duplicative titles do happen), I could finally have the title of my heart, even if it is for a different book that the one I first intended. Ms. Dray has moved on to writing amazing American Revolutionary era novels among other things and so I think it’s all good. Her book and mine seem to happily co-exist in the greater ebook world.
When I’m writing a book, I tend to think of it in a basic one word title, maybe the name of the planet or the main character or my inspiration. As in, “Today I did 1000 words on JAMOKAN.” COLONY UNDER SIEGE takes a part of its inspiration from an island where I used to visit as a child and so the folder on my computer where the manuscript and other materials reside is labelled thusly. One novel I wrote has a prince from an old 50’s “B” movie as the inspiration and the hero wore that name throughout my entire writing and editing process but then I changed it (as I’d always knew I would) because the name doesn’t fit the time and civilization my hero resides in. But the file folder still bears that title.
My intellectual property heirs will have fun trying to puzzle out which book is in which folder!
I have changed the names of a couple of planets because when I first went to romance conventions to do book signings I met readers who’d enjoyed my scifi romances, they were enthusiastic and complimentary but I noticed they really hesitated over the titles, which contained the (made up) planet names. I thought to myself that was bad, if readers were going to love the books but not be sure how to pronounce the names. So I tried to become less convoluted with my names and also to give my books titles that were more generic, like STAR CRUISE: OUTBREAK or DANGER IN THE STARS. I also went through a period where I deliberately gave the books sort of old fashioned science fiction titles like TWO AGAINST THE STARS (which was a tribute from me to all those old Andre Norton books I treasure to this day).
When I started my award winning Badari Warriors series about genetically engineered soldiers of the far future, I decided to go with the simple, one word title using the hero’s name – Aydarr, Mateer and so forth. I have subtitles to carry the freight of what the series is – Badari Warriors: A SciFi Romance Novel (Sectors New Allies Book #Soandso). If I had it to do over, I’d leave off the “Sectors New Allies” designator but at the time I started the series I felt it was important to show it did tie in to all my previous SFR books, in term of the same universe, which I call The Sectors.
I try to be mindful not to have more than one character whose name starts with the same letter in my books, ever since my editor tactfully pointed out that all my Egyptian warriors seemed to have names starting with “K”. Kaminhotep, Khenet etc. I’ve seen for myself how annoying it can be when the author presents the reader with three female characters who names start with “S” for example. It can get very confusing, especially if all three are shown on the same page, in action or giving dialog. I’m currently reading a long series where three of the supporting male characters have names starting with “B” (but the author has helpfully killed off two of them by book #8). And she introduced a villain whose name also starts with “B’!
I do have a thing for heroine names ending in an ‘a’ so I try to change that up on occasion, with Jill, Megan, Flo interspersed with my Sandara, Keshara and Elianna for example…
And that’s probably enough on the subject for today!
Here’s my latest one word-titled novel (and the book was IVOKK through the entire writing process and the folder is under that name too):
IVOKK: A BADARI WARRIORS SCIFI ROMANCE NOVEL (SECTORS NEW ALLIES SERIES BOOK 12)
Proud enforcer of the Badari South Seas pack, Ivokk undertakes a secret mission back to their former home, in search of a cure for a mysterious illness affecting his soldiers, now in exile in the north. He’s ready to make any sacrifice to find the answer and help his pack brothers stay strong. He’s even willing to accept responsibility for the human woman assigned to the mission, although she’s a headstrong civilian, difficult and rumored to dislike his kind.
Sandara DiFerria was once a three star chef in the Sectors, but that was before the alien enemy kidnapped the entire adult population of her colony to use for experimentation. Rescued from the labs by the Badari, she does her part to support the rebellion now by running the vast commissary operation in Sanctuary Valley. All she asks is to be left alone until she can get back to the Sectors and pick up her old life again. Her one previous romantic brush with a Badari soldier turned out badly, ending in public humiliation. Add to that post-traumatic stress from her life before moving to the colony and she’s the last person to pick for a top secret mission. Or so she believes.
The Alpha running the pack disagrees and sends her to do the job under Ivokk’s watchful eye. Thrown together by the nature of the task they must undertake, the undeniable attraction they both feel grows. Will the dark secrets of Sandara’s hidden past create an insurmountable barrier between them? Can Ivokk and the tempestuous human chef find the answer to the Badari illness in time? Or will the elements and the enemy bring disaster?