Saturday, 21 July 2012

Guest Post & Giveaway: Laurie Graham asks What's In a Book Cover?

Today author Laurie Graham talks about the importance of choosing the right name for characters in her books.  

Names can be deal breakers between me and my characters.  If their name doesn't feel right I can't do anything with them until I've fixed it.  Believe me, I can spend an entire morning playing around with Nan, Nancy, Anne, Annie.  And then end up with Mary.  Does it matter, you may wonder?  Well, yes, it does.  I think it's one of those instinctive things, like being able to hear a duff note on a piano.  

Sometimes the name field is wide open.  Anyone can be John, I suppose.  Actually I don't believe I've actually written a John.  When I wrote Life According to Lubka Buzz had to have a name that crackled with cocaine-fuelled nuttiness.  When I wrote At Sea, Enid had to have a shy, unassuming kind of name.  Enid could no more have been Buzz than Buzz could have been Enid.

When it came to creating Nellie for A Humble Companion I had a bit of help.  Though Nellie herself is my creation, her father Ludwig Weltje was a real person, a dutchman by birth.  So I had great fun perusing lists of common names used in the Netherlands.  Cornelia was perfect.  Unusual enough to be interesting but handily shortened to Nellie by those who knew her.

Surnames are important too.  I found Morphew in a list of tradesmen in 18th century London and as soon as I had his name he came to life.  It sounds daft, I know.  I guess it's just one of those weird obsessions that distinguish novelists from normal, sane people. 

Laurie's lovely publishers Quercus have offered me a copy of her latest book, A Humble Companion, to giveaway to one lucky reader (UK only).  So as this post is about character names it seems only fitting to have a name based question for you to answer to have a chance to win the book.

To enter, complete the Google form here with your details and your answer to 'What name was Queen Victoria known by as a child?' A) Ria B) Drina or C) Tori.  Entries close 6pm on 31st July.


  1. I would like to thank you for a fantastic book giveaway and a most interesting post, regarding a historical novel that has captured my interest. I would love to be able to have the oportunity of reading & reviewing something origonal and unique.
    Thank you x

  2. I totally agree. Names have to be adequate with the character's personality. It has to sound good. =) I'm not entering since I'm INT. Good luck everyone!

    1. I'll be uploading an International giveaway on Wednesday so you'll be able to enter that one if it's a book you're interested in.

  3. I love historical fiction! Thank you for the opportunity to win this, it sounds a great book :)