What’s in a name? Plenty.
Back in his early years, well before I was published, a very popular (now) thriller/horror-type writer had a habit of bestowing names like “Don Jackson” and “John Hanson” on characters appearing in the same book. I couldn’t keep them straight and I’m eternally grateful to whatever editor didn’t insist he fix them because it made me very aware of the importance of names.
Sometimes a name appears simultaneously with a character, like Tom Abernathy, in Thunder Road. He just appeared one day, introduced himself, then hung around in the waiting room in my head for about three years, until his story arrived. It’s a name that isn’t too descriptive, but Tom is a modern-day cowboy, and when you apply it that way, it works. I’m just glad he didn’t tell me his name was Chaz Wadsworth. That would’ve been a tough one for a cowboy.
In The Sorority, though, many of the names were carefully chosen either as references to Arthurian lore, stereotype, bad puns, or in the case of Professor Tim Piccolo, (aka Professor Tongue) at the suggestion of a friend.
The titles of the individual books (now within the omnibus), Eve, Merilynn, and Samantha belong to each book’s heroine and are Arthurian in nature. Well, at least the first two are. Eve is a play on Guinevere, and Merilynn (pronounced Merri-Lynn) is a reference to Merlin. Samantha is simply a strong name because I didn’t care for any feminine versions of Arthur. Their last names, as well as the last names of most of the other characters, particularly the football players, are riffs on things found in Arthurian lore, too. Many of the footballers are named for knights of the round table, in fact.
The main antogonist throughout the book, Malory Thomas is a play on a name historically vital to the legends that only an Arthur-fan will snicker over; more importantly, and conveniently, “Mal” conveniently means “bad” or “wrong.” And Malory certainly is that. Eve, Merilynn, and Samantha are three faces from Arthurian lore, and Malory is a fourth.
Sorority girl Brittany is a double play. She looks like the teen version of Britney Spears, and Brittany is King Arthur’s old stomping grounds. She was a character who took off and grew on her own. Oh, did I enjoy her. So did Malory, for that matter.
The cheerleaders. Most of them – the minor players – are referred to en masse as “The Heathers.” These girls are interchangeable and “Heather” is often perceived as a popular name. Heather the cheerleader sounds right. It’s also a nod to the classic mean-girl movie, Heathers, and the flowering plant, heather, would have been plentiful in Arthur’s time.
Kendra? Kendra is our constant friend throughout the books and she simply popped up and told me her name. I like it, but I would have used it even if I hadn’t, because characters usually know best.
There are a couple of minor characters with important roles, professors McCobb and Piccolo. Professor Daniel S. McCobb, Dan to his friends, imparts history and folklore to his students. In my mind, he’s a ringer for John Houseman, but that’s not the interesting part. Say his name out loud. Then say his wife’s. Her name is Vera McCobb. You can bet I was having fun — and it’s a fitting name. Dan S. McCobb first appears, by the way, in The Forgotten.
The other professor, Tim Piccolo, began as a cameo for Tom Piccirilli, and as is often the case, turned into a bigger character. Just as another writer-friend chose the name and physical attributes of Andrew Harper, Natasha’s massively endowed human lover in Candle Bay, Tom chose to be petite below but be able to lick his forehead. Tim is a gentle name and Piccolo means small, as in the tiny flute.
Finally, there’s our ghostly sorority girl, Holly Gayle. I’m going to leave that one a mystery, but you’ll figure it out!