Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Lilian Darcy has now picked the winner of last week's competition, Carol from New Jersey, and her prize is whizzing on it's way across the Pacific even as I write. Many thanks to everyone who made her so welcome last week and a huge thanks to Lilian for being such a star!

I can't believe so many fabulous writers have taken time out of their busy lives, suspending the rush towards tight deadlines, to help me have so much fun this year. Already the line up has been stellar, but I cannot tell you what pleasure it gives me to welcome my next guest.

Jenny Haddon -- who has also written more than forty wonderful romances for Harlequin Mills & Boon as Sophie Weston -- knows more about books, authors, writing, than just about anyone I know. Add to that her generosity, her hospitality, her organisational ability (she was Chairperson of the Romantic Novelists' Association) and the sheer fun of being in her company (just think of impetuous trips to the Ritz for tea) and you begin to get a flavour of this extraordinary woman.

Welcome, Jenny!

Happy Golden Anniversary, dear, dear Liz, and thank you so much for inviting me to celebrate your half century. Imagine me jumping about and clapping the flippers here. Here’s to the next 50.

I’ve always gobbled up books and I enjoy a lot of skilful and stimulating writers - in category romance and other genres too. But finding a writer you really love is rare. Actually, I think it’s chemistry. You need all the left brain stuff to be satisfied but it’s that right brain instinctive non-analytical stuff that says, ‘This one’s for me’. So it’s rather like a coup de foudre or knowing when you’ve come home. And that’s exactly what I felt when I read my first Liz Fielding.

Her books are total joy for me – except for one single, teeny tiny hiccup. Recently I was writing a book whose heroine was Gabriella. Yes, that’s right, Gabriella. As in The Secret life of Lady Gabriella. (Great minds, and all that . . . ) I bought Liz’s book – and laughed and sighed and beamed my way through it. And thought, ‘No problem. Lots of people have the same names. My book will come out ages after Liz’s. Everyone will have forgotten.’ Except – I didn’t forget. I had a Gabriella in my head now. I knew her. I loved her. And she wasn’t my heroine. It would be like trying to call one of my own heroes Hamlet.

Actually, Hamlet might be easier, come to think of it. Hamlet Twistleton Twerp would surely be a guy with his Life Issues all bright and shining before the novel began, justified resentment of his parents among them. As another of my favourite authors would say, ‘By Jove, Jeeves, rum work done at the font.’

So there followed a short hiatus for rechristening of my heroine. Of course, that meant that I had to think again about the overall landscape of names in the wip. All I can say is, thank God for Search and Replace.

Anyway, my Not Gabriella has now recovered and is just dancing her way through to the end of her book. It is a new venture for me, longer than category, and bulging with minor characters, including a ramshackle stately home. Can’t wait to see what other people think of NG and her mates.

Another new venture for me has been writing GETTING THE POINT, a guide to punctuation, with fellow novelist Elizabeth Hawksley. We set out to help people who regularly asked us for help – authors, readers, colleagues, godchildren, the man who came to read the meter, saw my laptop on the dining room table and sat down for a chat on the apostrophe . . . But we ended up giggling like lunatics over the exploits of the characters in our examples. Casanova gives advice on curing spots; aspiring writer, Belinda Bubblewit tries her hand at Diana in the Dessert; the dragon authoress of Egg-Laying is a Feminist Issue goes head to head with the patriarchy. The book was fascinating to research and a blast to write – and now that it’s done, I can use it to check my own punctuation. A real bonus, that!

But, as we say in GETTING THE POINT, the best way of learning to write good style is reading good writers. Which is yet another great reason for hoping that Liz Fielding will spit on her hands and get writing the next 50.

Many congratulations, Liz. Party on!


Oh, Jenny, I’m so sorry about your Gabriella’s forced name change, but I can’t wait to read her, whatever you’ve called her. It’s been too long since the last Sophie Weston. And I’m sure I’m not going to be alone in rushing to Amazon to buy Getting the Point just for the joy of reading all about Bubblewit’s trouble with spelling and getting to know the dragon authoress of Egg-Laying is a Feminist Issue. Punctuation as fun. Brilliant.

But before I do that I have to tell everyone about the very generous prize you’ve offered. A set of the Sophie Weston cousins trilogy: The Independent Bride/ The Accidental Mistress/The Duke's Proposal.

Here's the bit where you have to do the work if you want a chance to win. Here's Jenny's challenge:

Which hero or heroine has the most unforgettable name for you? (Lady Gabriella doesn't count because, as you will know, it's more of a nom de plume!)

I think we’ll do this one on the comments page, Jenny, so that we can all enjoy the answers. Tell us your unforgettables and Jenny will pick a winner after the weekend and, in the meantime if, like me, you can't wait to check out Belinda Bubblewit, you'll find her here at Amazon, UK


Estella said...

The most unforgettable name for me is Skye O'Malley. The heroine of several Bertrice small books.

catslady said...

For me it's Ayla in Jean Auel's Earth Children's Series.

So we have to wait to find out who your NG will be named? inquiring minds want to know lol.

Jan Jones said...

You're going to tell me this doesn't count, but I've always had a thing about Rum Tum Tugger from Old Possum's Book of Curious Cats

Such a fabulous name, and he's so contrary he just has to be a hero.

And if you've ever seen him in the musical Cats, well, someone pass me the cold shower.

Virginia said...

I am going with Harry Pye from Elizabeth Hoyt's The Leopard Prince. This name has been stuck in my head ever since I read the book. He was a great person in the book. This was a great book.

michelle Douglas said...

Bella Wilfer from Charles Dickens' 'Our Mutual Friend'. She is wonderfully mercenary, wonderfully flawed and simply wonderful, and somehow her name sums her up exactly. (Actually, that book is full of memorable names - Bradley Headstone, Rogue Riderhood, Silas Wegg... Mr Venus).

Jenny, how hard was it to rename a character who was already fully formed in your mind (and partly on the page)? I know some writers who say they can't start writing until they come up with a good working title for their book. For me, it's when I find the right name for the characters. I could change surnames, but first names... fat chance! I take my hat off to you.

Cryna said...

The most unforgettable name for me would be from Much Ado About Nothing - the name Hero was the heroine's name - which I always found as different.

Anne McAllister said...

Grace Green wrote a wonderful book whose title escapes me, but the name of the hero doesn't. It was Taggart Smith. He was just a great hero and I fell in love with him . . . to the point that, down the road a few years, I asked Grace if I could name a hero after him. And she kindly said, "Of course," that she and Taggart would be honored.

So I did. And since I couldn't call him Taggart Smith, I called him Taggart Jones. He had a lot to live up to, and I tried very had to get him there. I hope I did. He -- and Grace's Taggart -- are still among my favorite heroes.

Jenny Haddon said...

What an interesting selection! Skye O'Malley is intriguing because of the kizture of Scandinavian/Old Norse (the Sk-)and Celtic. Never know how to pronounce Ayla, I'm afraid, which always trips me up.

Love the Rum Tum Tugger - AND Skimbleshanks, too. And what about Terry Pratchett's Greebo? When transformed into a man he is The Perfect Romantic Hero - 'He strolled beside her with that gentle swagger which makes women thoughtful and men's knuckles go white.'

Haven't come across Harry Pye, Virgina, but shall certainly go looking.

Liz Fielding said...

All names count, Jan!

Anne, was the Grace Green book Risk of the Heart? About an oil well firefighter? I loved that one, but it was a library book so I can't check.

Jenny Haddon said...

Absolutely agree about Charles Dickens, Michelle. He always got his names right and Bella is a particular goody.

Renaming my heroine wasn't as bad as I would have expected, Michelle. I suppose because I now knew a Gabriella and she wasn't, if you see what I mean. It took a bit of time and lots of walks round the park trying on names for size. What I did was think about her in various scenarios before the book opened, to see what her grandmotehr, her primary school teacher, her first boyfriend called her. A couple of names worked for the family but not the friends and vice versa. But in the end she chose her own - Rosie, short for Rosetta (after a Venetian ancestor).

It changed her a bit, for the better, I hope. She got funnier, and a bit more vulnerable.

I agree, names are crucial.

And if anyone knows a fabulous Rosie in fiction please, please PLEASE don't tell me. Or not yet, anyway.

Jenny Haddon said...

Cryna - Hero is a wonderful name. Georgette Heyer uses it too in one of my favourites, 'Friday's Child' where Hero really is an honest-hearted brave little person. WISH I could write like that. Sigh.

Anne, Liz, another book I must go looking for! I agree, Taggart is a very strong name, down to earth but with a bit of mystery attached.

juliemt said...

I agree with Liz, it's been so long since the last Sophie Weston, but your new longer book sounds fab, so I'll be counting the days until the release date.

Like Michelle, I think Dickens gave his characters some wonderful names, such as Mrs Jelleby from Bleak House, the do-gooding, but ultimately self-absorbed charity worker.

Oh, and I read the cousins trilogy already, so there's no need to include me in the drawing.

Donna Alward said...

Ok this is SO much fun!

I was thinking of all the great names in the books I've read, but you know what's sticking with me? Anne Shirley. Anne-with-an-e. Never mind the "could you please call me Cordelia", Anne was just Anne.

LM Montgomery did a fabulous job with her characters....their names always fit them exactly and if they didn't she'd point it out.

Jenny, with the name change, did some of her characteristics change? You mentioned she became a bit more vulnerable, a bit more funny. Did any of her backstory change, or was it more a bringing out of another side of her personality?

Anonymous said...

I once read a western where the heroine was named Lily Cigar and a Civil War book where the hero was Johnny Diamond.

Liz Fielding said...

Isn't this interesting? I've been struggling with the name of my latest heroine and so far she's been Finty and Emily (toying with the whole Emily Pankhurst thing there) and then, out of the blue, Anne mentions Grace Green and suddenly there she is. Grace. Perfect. Thanks, Anne :)

As for memorable names -- Dickens does seem to have been a master at finding a name that describes the character. How about Magwitch?

Sue said...

Fab post Jenny, and congratulations again Liz!

I am renowned for having an awful memory, and I drive myself crazy trying to remember characters names - even my own!

Lady Gabriella has been the rare exception for me. Just the mention of this character's name recaptures the warm, fuzzy, happy feelings I experience when reading about her.

I didn't think I had much chance of remembering another name that's stayed with me. I agree with Dickens' (for me it's Oliver Twist).

I made my brain work harder to remember a female protagonist who's stayed with me and I was thrilled to recall a trilogy which I haven't read in over a decade - Catherine Cookson's Tilly Trotter

Sue xx
(who apologises for rambling!)

michelle Douglas said...

LOL Donna. Anne-with-an-e-Shirley was the next character who popped in my head. I love Ms Montgomery. If people haven't read her 'The Blue Castle', I'd recommend it - it is the sweetest and most moving romance imaginable.

Thanks for telling us how you went about renaming your heroine, Jenny. I won't be so scared now if I'm ever in that situation.

As for memorable Rosies, didn't Liz have one in... just joking :-)

Anne McAllister said...

You're very welcome, Liz. Enjoy your Grace. If she's as lovely as Grace Green, you'll have a heroine indeed.

Dena said...

Hi Jenny,I'm so happy to hear another Sophie Weston book is coming, I can't wait!

My unforgettable name is also from Bertrice Small. She has so many unforgettable characters it's hard to pick just one. I really liked Flanna Brodie and Lara. My favorite though is Rosamund Bolton. I love all the heroes names from Alyssa's Day Warriors of Poseidon series. My favorites are Conlon, Ven, and Justice.

juliemt said...

Another writer who gives her characters unforgettable names is the wonderful Christina Jones. She's one of my favourite mainstream romantic novelists and has such terrific characters - who can forget the gorgeous Drew Fitzgerald or the battleaxe Brownyn Pugh in her wonderful Going the Distance?

Maureen said...

Daisy from Linda Howard's Open Season.

Snookie said...

Ohhh, I'd forgotten teh Anne with an "e" from the Anne of Green Gables series. I loved those books and read them in junior high then a some of them again while in college. The heroine name that stays with me most is Trixie from the Trixie Beldon series :)

limecello said...

Hm... the most unforgettable heroine's name for me would be Birle - from On Fortune's Wheel by Cynthia Voight. The hero's name is also good too - Orien. I do love Anne with an e too ;-).

Ally Blake said...

Hi Jenny!!!

I'm not here to win the books - I have 'em all and loooved them to bits. Just wanted to give you a big wave from across the pond and tell you how excited I am to here there will soon be a new novel with your name upon it for me to devour. I'm with Liz, can't wait.

Unforgettable name? Mmmm... Zaphod Beeblebrox from "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" has been one that slips into my mind more often than entirely sensible. Not sure that would be helpful as a hero or heroine name though ;).


Nathalie said...

I will have to say LĂ©onie from These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer... not really for her name, but becaus eI enjoyed so much her character :)

Jenny Haddon said...

Julie, how fascinating thta you should mention Christina Jones. I am just back from Manchester, where she won the North West Libraries Pure Passion Award (readers voted) for 'Love Potions'. Fab name for her heroine aromatherapist Sukie Ambrose - reminds me of atholl brose (Scottish hooch, drunk on Burns Night), all honey and herbs, intoxicating and vigorous. (After drinking it, you dance. Make that reel until you drop.

Jenny Haddon said...

Lovely suggestions. Yes, Anne-with-an-e is very special, isn't she?

And I love that spat in 'Taming of the Shrew' where Petruchio calls her Kate and she gets on her high horse and says, 'Those that do speak of me sir, call me Katharine.' And he says (well, ish), 'They call you plain Kate and bonny Kate and sometimes Kate the cursed but always KATE.' And lo and behold, he's re-christened her. Which is a very loverlike thing to do, though I don't think he realises it yet.

Nathalie, yes, I love Leonie too. It was the first time I'd come across the name.

Donna - I'm not sure that I would say my heroine's characteristics changed, so much as I found out more about her. For instance, suddenly I saw this scene in my mind's eye when she was throwing a 6-year old tantrum at her mother's re-marriage, to take the pressure off her brother. (Don't know whether that will survive the final cut yet but it gave me an insight into her that hadn't had before.) When she was Gabriella, she was mainly driven by fury at a cheating ex boyfriend. As Rosie,she's been trying to keep her balance in a seriously eccentric family and the ex boyfriend is nothing like as important as she thinks he is.

Jenny Haddon said...

Oh those wonderful Dickens names - Uriah Heap, the crooked, ambitious clerk who is almost sexy! The Cheeryble Brothers, who are!

Julie, Liz, Donna, Ally, thank you for the encouragement. I'll let you know how my Not Gabriella goes.

Lily said...

I am not sure... I know I love Shanna, it is such a classy but original name, and it was the heroine of the first romance book I had ever read, so I guess that is why it is memorable... I discovered a great new genre!

peggy said...

It would have to be bliss hartley
from the last rogue.connie
mason series

Annie West said...


Good luck with your NG heroine. I hope she trips merrily to the end of the story and then out onto the published pages soon so we can read all about her. It's difficult when character's names have to change, isn't it? The name is so much part of them.

As for favourite names for characters - Dickens is such a rich source and so is PG Wodehouse. I'm tempted now to go off searching my PGW horde for great names. However, I think I'll stick to Mapp and Lucia in EF Benson's series. The two rivals have so much in common yet are miles apart as the names indicate. Elizabeth Mapp, while devious, is prosaic and slow moving. Lucia (no-one would dare call her Lucy) has such remarkable flights of ambition and fancy, even pretending to fluency in Italian which gets her into so much hot water. The names fit them perfectly. Besides, I love the other names in the series. Where else could I read about Godiva and Quaint Irene and Twistevant's Store?

I'll be looking out for your grammar book, Jenny. Those examples sound fantastic.


Liz Fielding said...

Jenny, thank you for the news about Christina Jones and Pure Passion. She writes such joyous books -- I once described them as very H E Bates in his Darling Buds of May hat.

I, too, am a huge fan of Anne with an e. I so empathised with that scary flight through the woods -- had exactly the same horrors on dark stairs as a child!

Jenny Haddon said...

Lily, Oh yes, I can see that Shanna would be your archetypal heroine, especially if she were your first. I suppose mine was Marguerite Blakeney from 'The Scarlet Pimpernel'.

Peggy - Bliss Hartley, what a fabulous name! And what a risk her parents were taking!

Annie - oh I love the ferociously fragrant Lucia, phoney that she is. I always want her to win, too, even though I know she's a manipulator and a cheat and doesn't deserve to.

Liz, so glad you found Grace. Sounds like It Was Meant.

Liz Fielding said...

Bliss Hartley!

My mother considered calling me Joy and then decided she might be tempting Fate!

Jan Jones said...

A friend's daughter has just called her new little girl Comfort.

They're braver than I would be!

Annie West said...

Jenny, I'm glad you feel the same about Lucia. I tell myself I shouldn't want her to win but I can't help myself.


Lesley Cookman said...

Coming in late on this - and I'd love to know who won - but there IS a Rosie, Jenny, and you and I have discussed her on occasion.

My favourite's probably don't count, either, but I just love Loveday Minette from The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge. And Miss Heliotrope, of course, and Marmaduke Scarlet and...and...and...

Lesley Cookman said...

PS did anyone notice my deliberate mistake in the previous post? A slipping little finger - nothing more. Now must stop procrastinating.

Jenny Haddon said...

Hell's teeth, Lesley, of course you're right. Fortunately, my Rosie is not a writer, well not of fiction, as the Other Rosie is, nor a keeper of pekingeses. I shall fight to keep Mrs Little out of my mind.

And, as the author of a book on punctuation, I realised that your deliberate mistake was a trap to see whether I was looking.