The process of naming characters is a funny thing. I’ve used baby name books; bursts of inspiration from nowhere; and the old standby, family names. When Royal Street was a work-in-progress and I had some different readers looking at it, I had a couple say: Can’t you name your character something else?
Well, there are times I wish I had, but somehow, once DJ had her name, it stuck.
So, meet the Royal Street cast, and where their names came from.
*Drusilla Jane Jaco–aka DJ–is a Green Congress wizard. Greenies are the geeks of the wizarding world, specializing in ritual magic. DJ was this character’s name from the start, and even though SHE doesn’t like her name (because she was named after her great aunt Dru, a licentious woman, by all accounts), she’s stuck with it. I can’t imagine her with another name at this point. Where did the name come from? DJ is a nod to my maternal great-grandmothers, whom I never knew: Drusilla Jane Harris and Ida Jaco. I always thought Drusilla was a perfectly gothic name, and Jaco came from a stray Yankee in the family.
* Gerald St. Simon–Gerry–is a Red Congress wizard. Reds are the warrior class of wizard, specializing in physical magic. He’s British by birth, but has lived in New Orleans for almost thirty years when the events of Royal Street take place. His name came out of the air. I have no clue. It came in the first draft, and it stuck.
* Alexander Warin and his cousin, Jacob Warin–Alex and Jake are first cousins who grew up in Picayune, Mississippi, about an hour north of New Orleans. They have a first-class rivalry. Alex’s mom, Norma, is from a Cajun family near Lafayette, but his dad, Thomas, and Jake’s dad, Edward, own a hardware store in Picayune and are of German descent. I used Alexander and Jacob as their given names for no other reason than because I like those names–they’re strong and sexy. “Warin” I chose after an exhaustive search through a list of surnames. It means “strong.” And they are, in different ways.
* Jean Lafitte–well, I had no part in naming Jean since he’s a historical figure. He’s French, he’s a pirate, he’s too smart for his own good, he’s morally ambiguous. Sounds like a romantic figure to me!
A few others you might run across in the book:
—Eugenie Dupre…DJ’s bff. “Eugenie” is a pretty name you hear a bit around New Orleans, and “Dupre” is the street my friend Dave lives on and is also the name of his dog.
—Ken Hachette…Jake’s friend on the NOPD. Ken changed ethnicity during the writing of the book, from Asian to African-American, but he never changed names–another one that got pulled from thin air.
—Peter Jaco…DJ’s dad in Alabama. Another family name–Ida’s uncle.
Do you have names you particularly like or don’t like in some of the series you read? Weigh in. How important are names?