THE YEAR OF SHADOWS Blog Tour, Day 12: The Character of Names in The Year of Shadows
I love talking about how I come up with character names, and I love reading about other authors’ naming processes as well. It’s endlessly fascinating to me how sometimes names just pop into my head, and other times I end up agonizing over the etymology for days. Regardless of method, one thing’s for sure: I’m one of those authors who absolutely cannot begin drafting until I have all character names nailed down. Placeholder names simply don’t cut it for me!
Olivia’s name is one that came to me easily. First of all, I just like the sound of it. Secondly, one of the meanings of Olivia is “olive” or “olive tree.” This works well for Olivia because olives are bitter yet succulent and flavorful. Olivia herself is quite bitter at the beginning of The Year of Shadows, bitter with anger and confusion. Because of this, she isolates herself from the world. But as she demonstrates throughout the book in her developing relationships with Henry and the ghosts, there is a lot of compassion and capacity for love beneath that bitterness.
Olivia’s last name, Stellatella, came from real life! When I worked as a librarian in Texas, one of the women in the city’s human resources department had the last name of Stellatella. The moment I heard this name, I fell in love. Doesn’t it just sound feisty and full of life? Then I put Olivia and Stellatella together and bingo! A name that practically bounces off the tongue.
The Maestro is Olivia’s father (whom she refuses to call “Dad” because she’s that furious with him). His first name is Ottorino, which is an Italian name that stems from the name Otto, which means “wealth, fortune.” Ironically, the Maestro is far from wealthy. I also liked the name Ottorino because it is the first name of an Italian composer I admire: Ottorino Respighi.
Another important character in The Year of Shadows is Henry Page, Olivia’s friend and partner in crime. I picked the name Henry not for any specific reason. I just liked the way it sounded and felt—solid, friendly, loyal. Henry has these characteristics in spades. His last name, Page, I picked because Henry works as an usher at Emerson Hall, and a page is historically a young male servant. Of course, Henry isn’t a servant; he gets paid to work at Emerson Hall (albeit not paid very much). But he certainly serves audience members by helping them find their seats before a concert starts.
Naming the ghosts was an especially fun process. Each ghost’s name is appropriate for the time period in which they existed in real life. (I can’t say too much about that it would give away information about their pasts—and that’s much more fun to discover as you read!) Frederick means “peaceful ruler,” which is appropriate since Frederick is quite a genial fellow and takes on a sort of leadership position amongst the group of ghosts. Tillie and Jax’s names I picked simply because I loved the sound of them. (Sometimes there isn’t too much meaning behind why authors do things! Sometimes we just think it’ll be cool.) And Mr. Worthington’s name to me implies the worthiness, the goodness, of his character.
Other character names in The Year of Shadows are explained in the text—like Joan, Olivia’s outspoken classmate, and Igor, Olivia’s equally outspoken cat. Other secondary characters, like Mr. and Mrs. Barsky, got their names simply because, again, I liked the sound of the names that popped into my head.
Oh! And there is one secondary character who got his name in a special way: Richard Ashley, the principal trumpet player in the orchestra Olivia’s father conducts. The real-life principal trumpet play of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, my hometown orchestra, is Ryan Anthony. Ever since Ryan Anthony came to the DSO, I’ve admired his playing, and the few times I’ve spoken with him, he has been nothing but gracious and incredibly kind. I knew from early on that Olivia would have a crush on a trumpet player, so it seemed fitting to name said trumpet player after Ryan Anthony in homage both to his kindness and his talent.
I hope you had fun learning about the character names in The Year of Shadows! Don’t forget to fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win the book!
Claire Legrand used to be a musician until she realized she couldn't stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now a writer, Ms. Legrand can often be found typing with purpose at her keyboard, losing herself in the stacks at her local library, or embarking upon spontaneous adventures to lands unknown. Her first novel is THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, a New York Public Library Best Book for Children in 2012. Her second novel, THE YEAR OF SHADOWS, releases August 27, 2013, with her third novel, WINTERSPELL, to follow in fall 2014. She is one of the four authors behind THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, an anthology of dark middle grade fiction due out in July 2014 from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins. Claire lives in New Jersey with a dragon and two cats. Visit her atclaire-legrand.comand atenterthecabinet.com.
Her mother left, her neglectful father -- the maestro of a failing orchestra -- has moved her and her grandmother into his dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.
Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help -- if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.
Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living . . . and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.