Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Good morning! Please help me welcome author Jill Sorenson to the convertible! Jill is a fellow member of my Romance Writers of America local chapter. She is a lovely lady with a warm smile who writes hot romantic suspense. I love that the hero of her book, Crash Into Me, is a pro was the hero of my very first published romance. Thanks for riding with us today, Jill!

What’s in a name?

I’ve spent a lot of time—probably too much—thinking about names. First names, last names. Pen names, character names. Names are an important part of our identity. Some authors use pseudonyms, but Jill Sorenson is my real name. I think it has a nice ring to it! When I got married, I kept my last name. Maybe because I had a secret yearning to see it on the cover of book someday. : )

Have you ever looked up your family name on a site like I just found out that Soren is derived from the Latin Severus, or Severin, which means “stern.” An interesting tidbit, and I think it fits my ancestors. Although I live in San Diego (where no one is stern), I was born in Kansas. Midwesterners have a tendency to be stoic and reserved. Even stern.

I can’t start a new project until I’ve picked the right names for my hero and heroine. I look up baby names online and refer to the biographical entries in the back of my dictionary. Secondary characters are subject to change, but I rarely go back once I’ve named a main character.

Sonora Vasquez, the FBI agent heroine of Crash Into Me, is named after the Sonora Desert. Prickly and isolated are two adjectives that suit her well. This desert also straddles the US/Mexico border, and Sonny must navigate between these two cultures.

Ben Fortune, the hero, also has a meaningful name. Born into wealth in the elite community of La Jolla, California, this handsome, world-class surfer is one fortunate son. He’s also no stranger to tragedy. He’s a widower, a single dad, and a murder suspect.

Sonny goes undercover in La Jolla as “Summer Moore,” and she gets very friendly with Ben over the course of the investigation. When he learns of the deception, he’s understandably angry. Tensions come to a head during a scene in which she reveals her true name:

“My real name isn’t Summer,” she explained. “It’s Sonny.”

For some reason, that admission drove him over the edge. In an unconscious imitation of the first time he tried to kiss her, he came forward, framing her chin with his hand and trapping her body against the wall. “I don’t give a damn what your real name is. Do you think I believe anything that comes out of your lying mouth?”

The instant he said mouth, she became aware of his hot gaze focused there, his large hand cupping her chin, his thumb pressing into her cheek. His body was hard and unyielding against hers, his chest rising and falling with every furious breath.

This time, it was he who closed the distance between them, lowering his mouth to hers. His kiss was rough and angry, meant to punish, not to please, but she welcomed it. She relished it. Slipping her arms around his neck and her tongue into his mouth, she moaned, digging her fingernails into his shoulders and begging for more.

Are names important to you, as a reader or a writer? Does your first or last name have a special meaning? Have you ever picked up a book (or put one down) because of a character’s name?


Christie Ridgway said...

I looked up both my maiden and married names at Banal English names based on place. But I like Ridgway a lot, despite the missing "e." I'm reading a book right now, a contemp, with a heroine named Millie (by a British author). There are other names that strike me as very different than what we typically see in the U.S. It's fun.

Helen Brenna said...

Names? Who cares about names after reading that hot little excerpt!! Hehehe.

Welcome, Jill! I hope your book flies off the shelf and it should.

Names are hugely important to me, too. I need to get them right before I can write. Though I usually don't get into meaning. I'm more of a name "feeling" right person. For some reason I end up with a lot of hero names ending in "s." No clue why.

Love the cover of your book and the title!

Betina Krahn said...

Jill, I adore your excerpt! Whew!

Names are critical to the success of a book, in my mind. I have to have a name for my characters or I can't go forward with the story. Since I write mostly historical, I have to make the name sound right for the era as well as seem attractive to the modern ear. Now always easy.

And, yes, I have occasionally been stopped cold by a name in a book. When I read the first JR Ward vampire book, I could hardly get past the Wrath and Rhage and Zadist names of the guys. I put it down twice before I picked it up and made myself finish it. Now I'm glad I did finish. I love that series.

Also-- I made the mistake of naming a whiny teenage boy in one of my books a "J" name that happened to be the name of my editor's son!!! I didn't realize what I'd done until I realized she really didn't like that character. Whenever we talked about him, she called him "the girl's boyfriend." Since then I take special pains to avoid my editors' kids' names in my books! lol.

Kathleen O said...

I think the names are importmant. Especially if they are bold or striking names. They jump out at me when I am reading the story and keep me interestied. But it also has to be a strong story to carry the names...
this is what my family name O'Donnell, which I already knew means-
The descendants of Donal, an ancient Irish family, who trace their descent through Donal to Niallus Magnus, the ancestor of the O'Neills, known as Nial Niagallach, Nial of the nine hostages. The O'Donnells ruled the territory of Tirconnell, for thirteen generations.
I found this out when we went to a clan reunion in Ireland in 1992.

I look forward to reading your book Jill.

Cindy Gerard said...

Hey Jill! Welcome. This is Cindy feeling very smug because I got to read CRASH INTO ME waaayyyy before anyone else. :o) I was thrilled to give a cover quote for this amazing book! I ditto everyone else, Jill. I hope it flies off the shelves. So go by the book, people. You won't be sorry :o)

As for names - i don't have much of a process. It's funny but usually when a character appears to me, he or she brings a name with them. Odd, I know, but that's where it is.

Cindy Gerard said...

I meant to type: go BUY the book. But then you all knew that, didn't you??

Christie Ridgway said...

Betina: I never thought about the issue of an editor's kids' names. Hmm...none of my editors have kids, so guess I'm safe there. Still, you could name a "bad" character after an ed's favorite brother or uncle or something and not even know it.

Emmanuelle said...

My maiden name in ROSSO which mean red in italian. My dad is from italian decent and I've always appreciated the exotic sound of it...
For characters I love the names Nick and Jack... don't know why !!

Michele Hauf said...

Great excerpt and also great cover!

I named a hero Severo after the Severin/Severus severe meaning. He's a werewolf. :-)

Names are driving me insane lately. Usually I can't begin a story until I have the perfect names for hero and heroine. My editor and I clash mightily on names. And one of her biggest picks is to change the name. I'm currently pretty close to madness because I cannot find a good name for my hero in a book that's due in a month. And this isn't the first time his name has changed. No, this is the second time she's requested I change his name.


May said...

My name is Monthiti, which is the combination of my sister (Mon something) and brother (Thiti) name. It had a special meaning for my parent since my brother died before I was born.

As a reader, I think name is important but not the absolute. I never put a book down because I hate the character name but sometime I wish the author select other name for the main character.

BTW, I am so love Crash into me. It is one of the best book I read this year.

Jill Sorenson said...

Hi Christie! Thanks so much for letting me hang out today. I didn't know your first book had a surfer hero! I loved the surfer dude in Not Another New Years. Very HOT.

Jill Sorenson said...

Hi Helen! So glad you liked the excerpt. : )

I can't move forward on a project until I have the right names, either. Most of my heroines have an S name.

Jill Sorenson said...

Betina, thanks so much. I agree about the Ward characters! We want names that are unique, but not so weird a reader can't connect to them.

Kylie said...

Welcome to the convertible, Jill!

I spend a great deal of time on the main characters names. I troll through pro sports rosters to find first and last names I like, LOL. I also go to the online baby names sites and list ones I like for males and females.

Secondary names are interchangeable for me. In fact, I often name a minor character and two hundred pages later when I come back to him or her, I give them a different name!

Jill Sorenson said...

Hi Kathleen. I like Donal and Neil. Might have to use one of those! Hope you enjoy Crash.

Jill Sorenson said...


Thanks so much for the awesome cover quote!!! You rock. How interesting that a name just pops up for you. Last night the name "Megan" popped into my head for a teen character I'm working on. I think I'll keep it!

Jill Sorenson said...

Emmanuelle, I didn't know Rosso meant red. Like rojo in Spanish. Very sexy!

Hi Michele. My editor suggests name changes sometimes, too. The heroine for my next release (Aug 25th) was changed to Shay.

Are you doing guest toes this season? LOL. That was fun last summer.

Christie Ridgway said...

Jill: My first book was for Silhouette Yours Truly (line now gone) and was titled The Wedding Date (and it came out =before= the movie of the same name). Heroine meets guy on the beach (surfer dude) and she assumed he needs work since he's there on a weekday and he's well, a surfer, and pays him to be her date to a wedding (again, this was =before= the movie came out!).

Everybody said I could never publish a surfer hero. But hah, we both have!

Jill Sorenson said...

Thanks, May! I'm always delighted to hear from a satisfied reader. Your name story is beautiful. : ) What culture are you from?

Kylie: Pro sports rosters! Great idea. Thanks.

Haha, Christie. She thinks he's unemployed because he surfs, LOL! Great concept.

I'm so proud of my surfer hero. We did it! ; )

lois greiman said...

Hey Jill, thanks for joining us.

Everyone seems to take names very seriously. You either like them or you hate them. But I don't often start writing with the right names for the main characters. I have to get to know them better before I can find their identities so they often change during the process.

But I love the name Sonora.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Jill, I end up doing the same thing with the characters I come up with. Even before I know what they look like, I must pick a name for them.

I Heart Book Gossip said...

I think names create the character. The more powerful the meaning, the hotter the character. Thats how I see it. How about you?

Michele Hauf said...

Jill, I'd forgotten about guest toes! Usually I try to mix things up. I'll have to think of something else to 'guest' this summer.

Jill Sorenson said...


That sounds very reasonable! My characters also change as they develop. But I need that "right" name as an achor, I guess. Or a starting point.

Hi Katie!

I Heart Book Gossip,

Well, I think an author can go too far with a powerful name. Like Lance or Thor or Studd McManly (silly examples). A strong name is good, but the hero's words and actions make him who he is.

Christie Ridgway said...

I'm struggling with a name I love for my heroine right now. Her name is Alessandra. Great. Her sisters and a lot of people in her community refer to her as Allie. She doesn't think of herself as Allie, so it's Alessandra in the narrative. But what a mouthful! So, I'm having the hero call her Alessandra, in part to stand out for everyone else, in part because I think he'd think it's a beautiful name for a beautiful woman, but again...a mouthful.

Maybe readers will read right over it. I could go with some sweethearts and honeys and whatever, which I actually like, but too much and it can come off as patronizing.

Jill Sorenson said...

Aw, I like Alessandra. With a long name, I think readers just recognize it rather than mentally sound it out every time. Esp in narrative.

But I don't mind a few honey/sweetie/baby endearments, either. Maybe he can call her Al? : )

Christie Ridgway said...

I thought of Al, but her sister is Stevie (Stephania) so maybe too many guy names for girls. Hmmm...could be kinda cute to call her A.B. (Alessandra Baci) My niece has a friend named Amanda that she calls A.P. for her initials.

But also think you're right, that readers don't sound it out, just read over the long name and "recognize" it as hers.

Debra Dixon said...

Jill -- Welcome to the 'vert !

Names are so important to me. I can't start a story until I've settled on names. I'm freaked that Lois can start without the absolute final names!

There is always a history that goes with the names as well as the nicknames that will come into play. Often the history or backstory of a name is a telling clue in the backstory of the character that I will use as the book develops.

Keri Ford said...

My h/h will park themselves in a chair somewhere until I get their names right. Everyone else, I can use placeholders-- BUTLER, SISTER, MAID, COOK --until their name comes to me or until I find one that will do.

The only time I have problems with names in books is when I can sound out the names several different ways. I never know which is right and it stops me everytime trying to figure it out.

Jill Sorenson said...

Thanks for the welcome, Debra. You're right, names are a great way to develop the character's backstory.

Keri, yes. I have to know how a name is pronounced. I also get tripped up by heroes named Scott or Robert (my brother and dad). I try to avoid those! Come to think of it, I have trouble thinking of names that don't belong to any of my friends or relatives. And I have a huge family! Makes it difficult. : )

Anonymous said...

congrat on teh book
hot cover
i had no problems with names yet