Sunday, June 25, 2017

What's in a Name? Guest Post by Sofie Kelly

Sofie Kelly is a New York Times bestselling author and mixed-media artist who writes the New York Times bestselling Magical Cats Mysteries and, as Sofie Ryan, writes the New York Times bestselling Second Chance Cat Mysteries.

Sofie Kelly:
What’s in a Name?

I swipe people’s names. No, I’m not some kind of identity thief who will take out five credit cards in your name and order every single product advertised on late-night TV. But if I like your name, it may end up in one of my books.

As a teenager, I wanted to be named Jennifer. That’s because in my mind, girls named Jennifer had long, flowing hair, kind of like Susan Dey of The Partridge Family. (Yes, I know Susan Dey was not named Jennifer. My teenage logic was not necessarily logical.) I did not have long, flowing hair, although I did briefly have an ill-advised Afro after a home perm that went very wrong. But that’s a story for another day.

For me, names often have identities attached to them. Sometimes when I name a character I also give him or her some of the qualities of the real person with that name. For instance, Idris, a name I used for a dead character in the Magical Cats mysteries, came from a tombstone. The real Idris outlived two wives and buried them side-by-side in a double plot. I began to imagine what he might have been like. Practical, obviously. He didn’t buy a new plot or a new headstone when his second wife died. He used what he had. Not overly sentimental, either, I decided, because otherwise I don’t think he would have left his two wives to rest side-by-side for eternity. When I created the fictional Idris, I gave him the qualities I had imagined for the real man.

Hercules always makes me think of actor Kevin Sorbo, from the campy Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. So when I gave that name to one of the Magical Cats, I also said that’s who he was named for. The fact that Sorbo was born and raised in Minnesota, the state where the Magical Cats mysteries are set, just felt like a sign that Hercules the cat had exactly the right name.

On the other hand, the only thing the fictional Marcus from my books and the real Marcus share is their name. The real Marcus is a talented artist and teacher with a funky style and a great sense of humor. The fictional Marcus is a lot more serious and stiff.

Because names can carry their own baggage with them, sometimes I don’t use a name I like. In one manuscript, I named a con artist Peter and realized my mistake almost immediately. I have a friend named Peter; he is kind and gentle and far more likely to give you the shirt off his back than try to scam you out of yours.

It’s not just associations that make me like a name, though. Sometimes it’s just the way the name sounds. Case in point: Benjarvus Green-Ellis (former running back for the Patriots and the Bengals.) I just like the sound of his name when I say it. I like his nickname too: The Law Firm. Both are probably a bit too distinctive to use in a book, though. Then there’s Siobhan. It’s Irish. I love that the name looks one way and sounds another. And not only do I like Ogden Nash’s name, I like his poetry too. They’re both a little quirky.

Are there any names that have a particular association for you? Or maybe your name is one I’d like to add to my “collection.” Please share.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Write What You Know

Global Warming, Modern Day Espionage, and Writing Thrillers: An Interview with Bernard Besson

Global Warming, Modern-day Espionage, and Writing Thrillers:  
An interview with Bernard Besson

Bernard Besson is an award-winning French writer and former top-level French intelligence officer who writes smart, modern spy novels. In his Larivière espionage thrillers, a team of freelance operatives navigates today’s complex world of espionage and global economic warfare while trying to lead normal lives in Paris. Whether they are unravelling the geopolitical consequences of global warming or discovering the intricacy of high-frequency online trading, they struggle to maintain their independence in a world where the loyalties of official agencies are not so clear and corruption and political machinations are everywhere. Here Bernard shares some of his insights about global warming, writing thrillers, and his novels. Anne Trager of Le French Book interviews Bernard Besson.

One of your thrillers is about global warming, which is quite topical these days. What did you learn from writing it? 

The Greenland Breach changed my views on global warming, which I used to consider to be a kind of end of the world. I realized there had been several ends of the world—from both cooling and warming. Humanity is capable of adapting to climate change. It has done so on several occasions in the past and it will do so again in the future. I am more afraid of errors made by governments than I am of changes in the weather. What we have to fear is that nations will not manage to live together peacefully. One of the key battlegrounds is business, and both countries and multinational corporations are fighting for key strategic knowledge they hope to be the first to use. Those with the best information will win the battle.

Why write thrillers? 

I got inspired to write my first thriller when I was at the DST, which is French counter-espionage, or the equivalent of the FBI. I was very lucky to be working during the fall of communism and the Soviet Union. We were able to understand how networks of Russian, Bulgarian, Polish, Czech and Romanian spies worked with their allies in France. There were some good stories to tell. Fiction makes it possible to tell more truth than an academic work filled with numbers and statistics—and it’s much more enjoyable to read.

Two of your titles have been translated into English. What inspired them? 

In our world of rapid climate change, The Greenland Breach gives you an entirely different perspective on how we are all being impacted. The blood splattered on the ice sheets of Greenland belongs to shadow fighters, mercenaries fighting battles we don’t learn about on the evening news.

Similarly, we are living in an age of technological disruption. In The Rare Earth Exchange, you get a heart-pounding story that could have been ripped from the headlines. What happens when a grain of sand throws off the well-oiled international finance machine?

Limited-time Giveaway of The Rare Earth Exchange. Sign up by June 25.