Saturday, June 04, 2011

What's In A Name? by Beverley Eikli

Choosing a heroine’s name is a tricky business. It must reflect her personality but as you and she will be spending a lot of time together, you want to love it, too.

I named my eldest daughter Sophie after the heroine of my first unpublished manuscript, written when I was seventeen. The book languished, unforgotten in a drawer but twenty years later Sophie got a new lease of life when my Norwegian husband and I chose it as a name that would work in both our homelands.

Names can sometimes appear like omens or talismans – or pegs on which to hang seemingly arbitrary life decisions.

When Sophie was two and we decamped to the Pacific where my husband Eivind was the new Chief Pilot of Solomon Airlines, many local girls turned up applying for the job of nanny and house girl. I’d recently started a new Regency Historical Romance featuring the lovely Rose Chesterfield so when one of the applicants told me her name was Rose it seemed a good omen. I hired her on the spot.

Rose was my heroine, both on paper and in real life. My earnest, hardworking Solomon Islands Rose from the island of Malaita took charge of the needs of house, husband and high octane toddler, enabling me to give my fictional Rose a life in the third dimension.

Nearly eight years later and with two books completed in the interim Rose Chesterfield in A Little Deception has had as many ups and downs as we’ve had in our married lives living in ten different countries. Barely recognisable as the original, A Little Deception tells the story of grand deceiver Rose Chesterfield who risks her reputation to save the family sugar plantation and winds up married to the deliciously notorious rake Viscount Rampton. Unfortunately what appears to be a happy ending is only the beginning of many trials and tribulations as a jealous adversary implicates Rose in a series of high profile jewel heists. When past secrets rear their ugly heads Rose must prove more than her innocence to regain the love of her once-smitten husband.

It was a lively, exhausting story which certainly underwent its own trials and tribulations. After winning the Strictly Single competition in was requested and ultimately rejected by Avon Senior Editor Erika Tsang, rewritten and finally sold to Robert Hale after I cut a further 15000 words from it.

Like my previous two books – Lady Sarah’s Redemption and Lady Farquhar’s Butterfly – the cover art was done by talented artist David Young. However when I look at the cover of A Little Deception I see more than just the beautiful ballroom scene. Instead I recall the sparkling vista of azure seas dotted with islands which I gazed upon from my verandah as I typed, sometimes in high spirits after a lunch at the Honiara Hotel with friends from my multicultural mother’s group.

The expat community was small and vibrant. Barely a year had passed since the violent coup which brought down the government in 2000 and bullet holes still peppered some of the public buildings. RAMSI (Royal Australian Mission to Solomon Islands) was an initiative of the future, the roads were filled with potholes the size of craters and the evidence of a crumbling infrastructure was all around us. As we involved ourselves in volunteer work from providing water tanks and generators for the hospital to beautifying the capital to encourage business investment and tourism, we partied enthusiastically.

One of our favourite pastimes was descending into the unpleasant smelling basement of ‘XJ6’ every second Wednesday for the ‘ripping’ of the newly arrived bale of second hand clothing from Australia and New Zealand and to rummage through the flotsam and jetsam in search of the beautiful ‘seconds’ where everything cost the equivalent of one Australian dollar.

It was a competitive pastime and lots of fun appearing at the next embassy function kitted out in such affordable Lisa Ho, Perri Cutten or Alanah Hill designer wear. The foraging of two years in the Solomons has provided my attire for the Romance Writers of Australia’s conference dinners for the past eight years.

A Little Deception is due out in hardcover at the end of June and I have a number of library talks lined up throughout Melbourne. I like to think of my two heroines, deceiving debutante Rose Chesterfield and my own loyal Rose, enjoying a rosy future beyond the launch.

Sadly, I don’t know what has become of my real life Rose.

We were all casualties of a strife-torn political system. When our tenure on the island we considered our new home was cut unexpectedly short we could no longer provide Rose with a job as we no longer had one, ourselves. Rose went back to her subsistence existence on her island while we drifted, without a home base for many months, until a job came up and we established our footing on the next rung of the shaky ladder of life.

Rose Chesterfield was the panacea to my once nomadic existence while Malaitan Rose was my friend who learned English through our many conversations over the jugs of ‘bush lime’ for which she was famous.

A name is so much more than just a name and I miss both my Roses who are no longer such a large part of my life.

I’d love it if you visited me at my website on or dropped in to say hi on Facebook.

And thank you, Lee, for having me here today.



marybelle said...

Names are important. Just think how much trouble it is to choose the PERFECT name for a new baby. I imagine it is the same for a character in a book. A name has to FIT.

Jo's Daughter said...

Shakespeare might think that a name is of little importance but I feel different. It can say so much about a person & if I don't like a name in a romance novel it might take a while (few pages) for me to change my opinion of that character.

Pat Cochran said...

How sad that you have lost touch with
your "real life" Rose, who was such an
important part of your family life. We
hope you will someday be able to learn
news of her. I have added your book to
my TBR list and look forward to reading

Pat Cochran

Christina Hollis said...

Love the story behind Sophie's name - and your photos are great!

Beverley Eikli said...

Hi Marybelle, Joe's daughter, Pat and Christina - yes, names are such an important part of life - fictional and real life.

Melanie Milburne said...

Hi Beverly,
I love choosing names for my characters. I just have to like the name otherwise I can't write the book.
Loved your post and all the pictures. xx

Beverley Eikli said...

Hi Melanie,
Yes, I have to love the name otherwise I don't fall in love with my character - which is obviously a prerequisite for getting her through 70K.
Nice to hear from you - and I loved your blog with all those beautiful pictures from Italy. I bet you're still haunted by the true story of what happened behind the walls of your mysterious villa. XX

Jess Dee said...

Bev, we had a "Rose" back in South Africa.

Her name is Johanna, and she was a part of our family for 15 years. My 'other mother.'

I still miss not seeing her every day.

Beverley Eikli said...

Hi Jess, I can imagine how sad you must be. Your Johanna would have been such a family fixture. My "Rose" in Lesotho was called Francina and she was my "other mother". We tried to find her last September but I'm writing about her in my Lesotho story.