You’re supposed to be hearing from an editor today, but I whined and moaned until Terri Bischoff gave me her spot as a stop on my Reek of Red Herrings blog tour.
So I thought I’d blog about one of the reasons editors are so essential for writers. (At least, for writers like me.)
For one thing (of many), it takes my gentle editor to tell me every single last time that it’s a terrible plan to have two things in a book with the same name.
I don’t do it by accident. Well, I did have a Dinah and a Donna in the current work in progress until I noticed and made one a Rosalie. Nope, I just regularly get the conviction that a lot of similarity with names is a great idea.
In my defence, people do get called after their parents and grandparents, don’t they? My cousin Rick has a father-in-law called Dick and a nephew called Richard. And some names are common. I’ve got three friends called Simon.
But, now I think about it, that does cause endless confusion.
“What? No, other Simon.”
My bad habit reached its peak in a book about nuns (Dandy Gilver and A Most Misleading Habit), where twenty characters were called Sister Something and I decided that a convent, an asylum and a large house nearby should be called Hopekist, Hopekist Head and Hopekist Water. Genius.
Thank God for my editor, Francine, who thought “OH, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” then emailed “Hm, perhaps rethink the similar place names?”
But this time it wasn’t my fault. The Reek of Red Herrings is set in a fishing village in Aberdeenshire, where – in real life – a few settled families honour their relatives with the choice of given names for their children and hey presto: everyone’s called the same thing.
Slight exaggeration but in 1901, forty men in the tiny village of Gamrie were named either James or Alexander Watt. Add the women (and the Wests and Wisemans) and there a lovely muddle in which to lose suspects.
Enter my other editor’s-nerve-shredding habit. One character with two names. Or in the case of Gamrie “tee-names”.
The tee-names of the herring folk were the only way anyone could ever tell who anyone was talking about. Greta, Peggie, Mary, Etta and Maggie were all Margarets. Lizzie, Betty, Lila, Elsie and Nesta were all Elizabeths. And Janet, Nellie, Nan, Nancie, Annie, Netta, Aggie, Gissie and the anagrammatic Senga were all Agneses.
I was in heaven. Francine was in hell. But I did what I was told and sorted it out. I added Helens, Johns, Williams and Roberts (even a Euphemia, a Warwick and Durban) and made sure all the identically-named folk were in the background where it didn’t matter.
If you want to see if it worked, why not check out the pre-order gift and giveaway below.
All the best,
Catriona (one of two Catrionas in my class at school and who has a niece called Catriona).
THE REEK OF RED HERRINGS comes out on the 13th of December. If you pre-order between now and midnight on the 12th, I’ll send you an exclusive short story and enter you in a drawing to win a bundle of all eleven Dandy Gilver novels. See here for details.