Welcome to our stop on the blog tour for Tattoo Thief by Heidi Joy Tretheway. We got to chat with Heidi Joy about choosing character names in our guest post.
22-year-old Beryl doesn't know why Gavin Blakely trashed his penthouse, abandoned his dog and fled the country. But as his house sitter, she must pick up the pieces for the front man of the white-hot rock band Tattoo Thief.
When ultra-responsible Beryl confronts the reckless rock star, she wants to know more than just what to do with his mess. Why is he running? What’s he searching for? And is he responsible for the death of his muse?
New York newbie Beryl must find her footing in Gavin’s world of the ultra-wealthy to discover her own direction and what can bring him back.
Steamy, sharp and heartfelt, Tattoo Thief is a story of love, redemption and escaping a comfort zone to find a second chance.
Deciding on Character Names
I know how hard it was choosing a name for my son - I can't imagine naming multiple book characters.
It’s tough! Not quite as tough as naming my kids (for the sake of marital harmony, my husband and I gave both of our kids two middle names), but still a challenge since every name is loaded with the reader’s own experience. My only rule is that I won’t name a main character for someone I know well. My friends’ names sometimes appear in my books as minor characters, but the main characters need a blank slate.
How do you go about picking a character's name?
The story drove me to name Beryl, the main character and narrator in Tattoo Thief. Her late father was a pilot and admired adventurous aviation pioneers, so he named his daughter after Beryl Markham, the first woman to cross the Atlantic solo from east to west.
There’s a personal connection for me there, too. My (very much alive) father is a pilot and gave me Beryl Markham’s memoir, West With the Night, when I was a teenager. He inscribed it, “Be safe, but have an adventure.” The longing for adventure is a key driver for my character Beryl.
The writing process and coincidence helped me name Gavin. I knew I wanted to Beryl to be a young woman who moves to New York from her small hometown to become a house sitter for New York’s elite, so I took a trip to New York to research Tattoo Thief. In the airport on the way there, I saw a guy with a tattoo just below his collarbone but I couldn’t read what it said.
My mind made the leap that maybe the tattoo was written backwards, as if it were meant for just the wearer to see in the morning when he looked in the mirror. I knew my main character would be a reckless rock star who trashed his penthouse and fled, leaving house sitter Beryl to pick up the pieces.
So, on my first day in New York, I wandered into a gastropub called The Spotted Pig while brainstorming ideas for the rock star’s tattoo and I chatted with the bartender there, who did his best to offer ideas. Although I left the pub still not knowing what the tattoo would say, I was charmed by the sweet bartender, so I used his name for my main character, Gavin.
How do you know you've got it right?
I knew Beryl was right from the very beginning because her name is so much a part of the story. Gavin’s name grew on me rapidly, and several minor characters’ names are nods to people who influenced me while I was writing Tattoo Thief.
You have full permission to laugh at me for the fact that Beryl’s best friend is named after my friend’s cat, and that cat was named after a beer. Stella’s a hard-partying, sometimes untrustworthy friend whose dating motto is, “a bad boy can’t break your heart.”
One of Stella’s boys has my favorite name: Blayde. That came from an article on truly awful baby names. The snarky commentary, “Who’s his brother? Knyfe?” made me laugh so hard I knew it had to go in a book.
Another favorite name is Kiki Kennedy, “a flavor-of-the-month actress with golden skin and platinum hair. She’s poured into a tight red dress and clomps across the stage in platform shoes—about as far from classy as Jacqueline Kennedy is from crass.”
Have you ever changed a character’s name?
Sadly, yes. When Tattoo Thief’s book blurb was released, some bloggers noticed a similarity between my main character Gavin’s original last name and the name of the main character in another series.
The author was gracious enough to alert me that the characters’ names were only two letters different. Yikes! I didn’t want to confuse or annoy her readers, so it took less than ten minutes to decide to change my Gavin’s last name prior to release.
I found Gavin’s original last name in a business magazine, but I crowd-sourced Gavin’s new last name, asking friends and readers on Facebook for suggestions. I think this is a great way to share the long and lonely writing process, so I often post questions about naming on Facebook.
I credit friends and readers with great ideas including the name of Beryl’s coffee shop, the Mug Shot Café, and Gavin’s rock band, Tattoo Thief. That’s what started my name-sourcing collective. Early in my early research, I found out that the first name I chose for Tattoo Thief was a real rock band, and I asked for ideas of a band name that wasn’t taken.
I’m writing the second book in the Tattoo Thief series now, and if you want to play along and help me name new people and places, I’d love it! I’m at www.facebook.com/author.heidi.
Heidi’s obsessed with storytelling. Her career includes marketing, journalism, and a delicious few years as a food columnist. Media passes took her backstage with several rock bands, where she learned that sometimes a wardrobe malfunction is exactly what the rock star intends.
You’ll most often find Heidi Joy with her husband and two small kids cooking, fishing, exploring the Northwest, and building epic forts in their living room.
She loves to hear from readers via messages on Facebook.
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