When I started the first succubus story for Brian, I needed a name for the main character. He was fascinated by Coop’s devil girl stickers: big happy girls who didn’t apologize for liking sex. Coop’s girls looked like they called themselves Candi or Brandi or Mandie, but I didn’t want to go that route.
Down the block from where Brian was living at the time, one of the apartment buildings was called the Lorelei. I didn’t know much about the Lorelei legend, other than she was a siren who led men to their doom. Later I discovered that she was a mermaid and blonde, but I had a cousin named Lorelei and her hair was dark, so it’s all good.
The angel’s name was harder to choose. Brian suggested Azaziel, so I just went with it. The nickname Aza (which we pronounced Ah-za, to follow from Ah-za-zi-el) developed organically, since Lorelei likes to nickname her prey, to find the attribute that sums up their longing and tease them with it: Tiger, Killer, Boss. By dropping the honorific -iel that gets tacked onto most angels’ names, Aza sounds — to Lorelei — halfway fallen already.
Lorelei’s sister Floria’s name came from the opera Tosca, which I saw the San Francisco Opera perform around the time I was working on the story. I liked the rhyme of Lor and Flor and the echo of having three syllables. Luckily, Brian stopped me before I had to name any more three-syllable succubi.
The only character whose name changed radically after we finished the book was Hai. All through the first draft, his name was Tran, which I really liked. At the same time, I was committed to Floria’s boy-toy being named Tuan Nguyen, one of the most common Vietnamese names. The names looked too similar on the page and I became afraid readers would confuse them, so Hai took a minor character’s name.
Brian chose the mortal girl Ashleigh’s name. I protested a little, since we already had Aza and Asmodeus, but once he decided the harpies taunted her by calling her Ashes, I was sold.
Names tell you a lot about a character. I often wonder if writers start with the character and look for a name to match — or if they start with the name and let it define the character?
I have wondered the same thing about writers. Thanks for sharing your process in writing this book. Whenever I write fiction I have to have a name first.
Names are really hard! My characters sometimes just have an initial before I settle on a name. Where do you find your characters’ names?
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