Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Character of Names with Nikki Loftin

Today Nikki Loftin, author of one of my favorite new middle-grade novels, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, is stopping by MPB to give readers the skinny behind her luscious names!

I was thrilled when I got The Call from my editor in February 2011 that Razorbill wanted to buy my book. There was only one stipulation: I would need to agree to change the title and the names of the main characters. 

Of course I agreed. But finding new names was easier said than done! I had used Greta and Hans for my two main characters, since my book is a re-imagining of the Grimm Brothers’ “Hansel and Gretel.” 
Too obvious, my editor said. We bounced around a bunch of names, but nothing fit until I hit on Andrew for Hans. Choosing this replacement was fairly easy, since my husband and both sons all share variations of Andrew as their first or middle names. It’s a family thing. 
But Greta’s name needed to have meaning. The evil teacher’s name is Ms. Morrigan, after all, named after the monstrous Celtic goddess of the battlefield. The music teacher is named Ms. Threnody, which is a song written for the dead. 
Want something more obvious? 

The principal’s name is Mrs. Trapp.

So for Greta I needed something equally – or more – meaningful. (In my book, even the kitchen workers have names – and stories -- like Vasalisa!) Also, the new name needed to be Germanic to work with some plot details. 
And, just to make things more awkward for myself, I decided the new name needed three syllables, like Coraline or Matilda.  

Then, one day, I was speaking with a student of mine who had asked how the name hunt was going. I told her I couldn’t find the right name. She laughed and asked, “How about mine?” 

Her name was Lorelei. 

I knew it had a story behind it – I’d read it as a child somewhere - but it wasn’t until I got home and searched it out that I realized how perfect the tale of the Lorelei was for this particular character. A tragic mermaid who loves music and may or may not be a murderous siren? 


I never thought I’d say this, during all those weeks of hunting, but I’m so glad my editor made me look for a better name.   

Want to win this impeccible MG debut? I know you do. 

Fill out the rafflecopter for a chance at winning a signed, finished copy of this title, plus some sweet surprises...

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Randi M said...

So excited to read this! I love middle grade novels. :) And I wish more authors told the meanings behind their character names - it makes things more interesting! Thank you for the post & giveaway.

Heather Marie said...

Yay Nikki!!! I can't wait to read this book. It's going to be amazing!

Nikki said...

Thanks, Randi and Heather! I'll admit, I'm starting to get a little nervous. Only one more week. *brrr* I hope you love the book!

Anonymous said...

This sounds awesome. I can't wait to read it and I know my 11 year old son would love it as well! I am always looking for new books for him to read. Looks like I just got in under the wire on this giveaway.