I am delighted to be taking part in author Virginia King’s Quirky Guest post blog tour and, without further ado, I pass you on to the lady herself. Don’t forget there’s a giveaway too.
The Naming of the Shrew
Every culture has rituals around names. Even in the west we trawl through baby names and their meanings, then keep the selection secret until the big announcement after the birth.
Why? Because names are powerful. They’re talismans of identity.
The Power of Names
What is it that makes names so powerful? For me they’re linked to identity and the outward manifestation of the inner self. Folktales explore these themes when there’s a challenge to guess someone’s name. Guessing the name or the predator gives the main character their power back (Rumpelstiltskin, Whuppity Stoorie), or it makes them discover the other person’s true nature (Turendot from 1001 Nights).
In Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola-Estes tells a fascinating folktale about the man who must guess the names of twin sisters to win their hands in marriage. The twins and their names represent two sides of a woman’s nature, but they are out of the man’s reach until his little dog (the man’s wild knowing self) sneaks into their tent and learns their names.
Tattooed on the Heart
Any writer will tell you that choosing each character’s name is an imprecise art. Sometimes the character arrives with their name tattooed on their heart and it’s a brave writer who tries to change it. Other times the right name eludes the writer and the character suffers an identity crisis until it turns up. But if we want our characters to be more than mannequins with labels, their names can reveal secret aspects of their personalities.
Think of the depth and uniqueness of memorable fictional names – Uriah Heap, Bo Radley, Phileas Fogg, Robinson Crusoe, Dorian Grey, Eliza Doolittle, Holly Golightly, Kinsey Millhone, V.I. Warshawski, Phryne Fisher. The name evokes the character in all its quirky individuality.
My modern psychological mysteries are greatly influenced by folktales and mythology because the symbolism touches the human psyche at a very deep level. This includes names. But the importance of this element crept up on me as I wrote The First Lie and continued into The Second Path, after my main character Selkie Moon turned up – with her name tattooed on her heart.
When the name Selkie Moon first popped into my head I thought it was the title of the book. It was a while before I realised it was the name of my protagonist. As soon as she got her name back, elements of Selkie’s story fell into place, a story that evolves from her name and her identity. Selkie’s mother adored the Celtic selkie myth – about the seals who peel off their skins and dance in human form – giving her daughter this magical name. But Selkie almost drowned as a toddler and has been afraid of the sea ever since, so her name became a family joke. Selkie’s abusive husband and step-mother colluded to change her name and part of Selkie’s journey is to take it back, stirring up a labyrinth of mythical consequences.
Selkie’s experience gave me the courage to play with the names of the other characters. I went to school with a girl who had four first names – Hendrika Mariana Jane Hepsibar – and now I have a friend who was christened Alexandra Aldegonda Lambertina Antoinetta. She calls herself Sandra but those names create secret layers in her character. When Selkie found a quirky flatmate who makes artworks from dead fish I was inspired to name her: Wanda Kadisha Mahala Yavenna Ziegler, suggesting her complexity.
Identity issues around other characters’ names popped up – a name change in response to bullying, story threads involving the confusion of a nickname, name swaps and more. In Selkie Moon’s third mystery (in progress), the names of twins – and the identities associated with those names – are playing an important role in the deeper layers of the book.
When I began writing this haunted house story as a prequel to the Selkie Moon Mystery Series, I remembered a Russian folktale that might weave its tentacles through the mystery. I gave one character a Russian name – Marina Polivanova – but when I stumbled upon an English murder ballad from the 1700s and started playing with it instead, Marina’s name suddenly created unexpected layers around identity in the story.
About Virginia King
When a voice wakes you up in the middle of the night and tells you to write a mystery series what’s a writer to do? That’s how Virginia King came to create Selkie Moon, after a massage from a strange woman with gifted hands was followed by this nocturnal message. Virginia sat down at the keyboard until Selkie Moon turned up. All she had to do was jump, the first sentence said. Soon Virginia was hooked, exploring far-flung places full of secrets where Selkie delves into psychological clues tangled up in the local mythology.
Before Selkie Moon invaded her life, Virginia had been a teacher, an unemployed ex-teacher, the author of over 50 children’s books, an audio-book producer, a workshop presenter and a prize-winning publisher. These days she lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with her husband, where she disappears each day into Selkie Moon’s latest mystery. Bliss.
You can download your free copy of Laying Ghosts here.
The First Lie by Virginia King, winner of a BRAG Medallion
Someone is trying to kill you.
When Selkie Moon flees Sydney to start over in Hawaii, it’s to live life on her own terms. But Life has other plans.
Though she tries to dismiss the warning as just another nightmare, it soon becomes apparent that someone, or something, is stalking her. Attacked by frightening visions and mysterious compulsions, she must piece together the fragmented clues before time runs out.
Virginia King effortlessly blends funky creativity and deep spirituality – with a dash of Celtic folklore – to craft a story of one woman’s fight for truth, and her discovery that the lies we tell ourselves are the most dangerous of all.
Giveaway of The First Lie:
You could be one of ten lucky winners who will choose either a signed paperback or an audio book of The First Lie plus a $15 Amazon gift code. One grand prize winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift code. Enter here.