Oh, it’s not that easy!! So far, the names of characters for my books has come pretty easily. I just knew what they’d be named. But names conjur up all sorts of associations so I never know if people will feel about the characters like I do. For instance, I knew a certain girl named X growing up. She was mean and terrible. And I always associate her name with that type of person. An author could write a story with a main character named X and she could be the nicest person in the world and I’d still think, “mean girl.”
My maiden name was Guli (pronounced goo-ley). So people called me Jenny Guli. And if someone met me only once or twice and I saw them again I’d inevitably hear them say, “Hi Julie!” I cannot tell you how bothersome that was to me. Very annoying. But I understood how it could happen – they took the J and the ooley and I became Julie! I hated it.
Now if I’m talking to someone on the phone they’re like, “hey, you’re a nice Irish girl…” But I’m not Irish. My husband’s name is. I’m Italian and German. The whole O’Connell thing doesn’t really mean much to me, but I know that Irish people have a very strong connection to the motherland, so to speak. To me, it’s just a name.
So I’m always thinking about my characters’ names and what they’ll conjur up in a reader’s mind – confusion? association with a horrible person? a relative? a certain ethnicity or background?
Do readers even care about a character’s name?