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  • Writer's pictureCherie Claire

Where do you get those names?

Do you ever wonder where writers come up with names?

I like to choose names with meaning. In my current Viola Valentine mystery series, I chose Viola’s name from Shakespeare's “Twelfth Night.” In this comedy of errors, Shakespeare's Viola survives a shipwreck and lands on a strange shore longing to locate her twin brother, Sebastian. She dons man’s clothing because a woman isn’t safe traveling through unknown countries and falls in love with a man who’s in love with a woman who’s in love — erroneously — with Viola. It’s one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and for those of you who love popular movies, it’s the basis for “She’s the Man” starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum.

My Viola survives two days on the roof following Hurricane Katrina and the event provides her an epiphany of sorts — she transforms her life, changes her job and leaves her husband and overbearing family.

I loved the name of Viola and its Shakespearean history, but it also provided me with a lovely alliteration with her last name of Valentine.

Viola's mother, by the way, is a Shakespeare professor at Tulane in New Orleans and her twin brother, Sebastian, keeps with the Shakespeare theme.

I also use family names. My Viola lost her daughter to leukemia at a young age and I wanted to name her something special and sweet. My great grandmother’s name was Lillye (that's her to the right of her husband, James Durward Taylor, in the photo above) and I’ve always loved that spelling. The name also carried down to my grandmother, Lillian Durward, and my mother, LilyB. I was blessed with two boys but I always thought that if I had a daughter I would name her Lillye Beatrice, the Beatrice for my dear mother-in-law.

Viola's daughter, naturally, is Lillye Beatrice Boudreaux and her nickname is Lillye B.

When all else fails, I pull names out of the air. There’s only so much thinking a writer can do.

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