Today I’m pleased to feature mystery writer Kaye George. Kaye was nominated for an Agatha award for Best Short Story in 2010 as well as for Agatha for Best First Novel of 2011. Her nominated story is in A Patchwork of Stories, which is a collection of some of her previously published stories. Her novel, CHOKE is the first in the Imogene Duckworthy humorous Texas mystery series. The second book is SMOKE, published in 2012.
Other short stories are in Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology, All Things Dark and Dastardly, and Grimm Tales and in various online and print magazines. She reviews for Suspense Magazine, writes for several newsletters and blogs, and has given workshops on short story writing and promotion. Kaye lives in Texas, near Waco.
Naming Characters, or How Imogene Came to Be by Kaye George
I get a lot of comments about my characters’ names, especially the ones I use in the Imogene Duckworthy series. Coming up with names is lots of fun for me. In fact, I can’t write about a character and have that character come to life for me (and, I hope, for my readers) unless I have just the right name.
In one mystery, I once named a character Dan and another one Ann. My first readers advised me to change one of them. I decided I had to change both. Ann became Cressa Carraway, a name I fell in love with. That series isn’t published yet, but I have hopes–it’s submitted.
Imogene evolved over a period of several months. I decided to write a series that I would call the Inept Detective series. I knew I wanted humor, and for the sleuth to solve crimes in spite of herself. After a little thought, I also knew where I wanted to set the series. We’d just moved away from a tiny town called Holliday, twenty miles from Wichita Falls, Texas. But–what to call my sleuth?
[Aside: How could you NOT set a humorous series in Wichita Falls? After the town was named after the waterfall, a storm destroyed it. I’m thinking it wasn’t much of a waterfall, but what do I know? Since they didn’t want to change the name of the town, they built a fake waterfall beside the river, fake rocks and everything. Now they pump water to the top of it and let it trickle down. I think it goes into a drain at the bottom, but they have to replenish it from the river. When the river gets low and the water gets too silty, they turn the waterfall off so the pump won’t get damaged. How could I NOT, right?]
Maybe, I thought, her initials should be I. D. to match Inept Detective. Imogene popped into my mind right away. I think I was recalling an old comedienne named Imogene Coca. She made me laugh when I was a little girl. Now I needed a last name, starting with D.
One night we were driving home to Taylor from Austin, and we passed through Hutto. That town’s high school team is called the Hutto Hippos (another funny story). I regretted I couldn’t use it somehow. Then I recalled that the Taylor team is the Taylor Ducks. That’s just as funny. (I’ve lived in such funny places!) It elongated itself in my mind to Duckworthy. That’s a good thing because I’ve googled all my names and don’t find any Imogene Duckworthys anywhere.
[Hutto Hippos: Local legend has it that a circus was passing through on the train and a hippo escaped. After looking high and low, it was found in a ditch beside the tracks in Hutto. Of course, the high school adopted the hippo as their mascot. There are hippo statues here and there in the small town. I still mourn the demise of the Everything Hippo store. I don’t know how they let that go out of business!]
The next character to form was Imogene’s mother. I wanted someone who would name a daughter Imogene, so Hortense came into being. Next, what would Immy name her own daughter? Nancy Drew Duckworthy, of course. I do like to use names for characters that their parents would choose, since that’s who usually names a person. Sometimes. Other times, I just have to name people stuff like Rusty Bucket and Ophelia. When names like that occur to me, the character appears before me, fully formed. I love naming new characters!
Thanks so much for joining us here today, Kaye. And thanks for adding to the fun by giving away a book..