Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Once Upon a Highland Autumn by Lecia Cornwall - Guest Post


Welcome, dear readers! I’m so happy to spend time with you here today.

I thought I’d start by showing you my own Bookends. A few years ago, we adopted two black and white rescue cats, a brother and sister, and named them Clive and Emma. They used to sit on either side of my desk while I wrote, and earned the nickname “The Bookends”. This is a picture of them with two of my books, taken a few years ago. Clive is on the left, Emma on the right. While Clive has since discovered other interests, Emma still sits in her own sweater-lined box on my desk and supervises. You can see by the look on her face that she was born to be a literary critic!

People often ask me (odd, but true) if my cats help me create book characters. Um, no. I never ever use anyone I actually know in my stories, human or otherwise. Think how awkward that would make Christmas dinner and family reunions! I have five cats, and the closest they come to literature is the fun we have finding the perfect names and nicknames for them.

It’s the same choosing the perfect name for book characters, too. Sometimes the names are determined in a previous book, where the hero or heroine was a mere secondary character, and his or her name not critically important to the story. Then they get their own book, and a writer might wish she’d been more selective in picking their name in the first place.

Since ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN is the second book in a series, Megan’s name was pre-selected. The hero of Book #1, Once Upon A Highland Summer, has three sisters. I chose each sister’s name because it could be easily Anglicized as part of the plot. Their mother is determined her daughters will marry English lords, and live English lives, and never acknowledge their Scottish background again. She fears Englishmen will not appreciate ladies with Scottish names, accents, and habits, so she changes their names from Megan, Alanna and Sorcha to Margaret, Alice, and Sarah. As you can imagine, this creates a good deal of confusion for other characters, and fun for readers.

In selecting a name for the hero of ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, I wanted
something exceedingly English, dignified, and formal because that is how I originally thought he would be. I chose the name Christopher Linwood, the Earl of Rossington. But although Rossington is indeed an English lord with an old, grand and moneyed title, he’s an uncertain one, a bit uneasy in his role as earl, since he was not born to the title. He fought against his name when I started writing the book, and eventually became Kit instead of Christopher, and the diminutive fits him perfectly.

Have you ever had this happen? You ask the clerk in a shoe store for a size 9, and he comes back with a size 6 because he’s out of size 9. I find giving a character the wrong name is like trying to cram a size 9 foot into a size 6 shoe. Ouch. The right name—the sound and feel of it—is like that perfect pair of shoes that make you feel gorgeous every time you step out.

Places also need the perfect name. When I was little (one of those daftly imaginative kids who make up stories in their heads when they’re supposed to be learning long division), I wanted to grow up and live in a house with a name. I even chose one—Lostwithiel. It means ‘at the end of the wood’. Alas, none of my houses have ever been grand enough to warrant a name beyond the street address. To find the perfect name for Glen Dorian, the setting for ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, I went through lists of Scottish places, animals and landscape features. Glen Dorian means The Vale of the Otters. Otters are playful, smart, rather shy, yet bold when they wish to be. I thought those characteristics described my hero and heroine well, and they also symbolize the spirit of the woman who laid the curse upon the glen, Mairi Macintosh, who still watches over the place.   

So what did I name the rest of my cats? There’s Ted, who came with his name. Second is Alphonse. Then there’s Tom, who arrived on a winter’s night. He was indeed a tom, and a charmer. I was writing another book when Tom arrived, and the hero of that story was Thomas Merritt, a suave and charming thief, and a bit of a tomcat himself. That described the cat, too, and the name stuck.

I love hearing from readers! Please leave a comment here for a chance to win a copy of the previous book in the series, ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND SUMMER, or drop me a line at


  1. Hope the weather is better where you are—it'a pouring rain today in Calgary. We had a HUGE flood a year ago, and everyone is extra anxious about the weather. If you have any questions or comments, I'll be back to chat throughout the day!

  2. Love your cat bookends! So cute. Books and cats are the perfect pairing. I've had three rescue cats thru the years: Tiger, Dragon and Isabelle. I understand and agree with the importance of having the right name.

  3. I love those names! Tiger and Dragon sound so fierce, and then Isabelle, so elegant and courtly!

  4. Hi Lecia! It's beautiful out here in the 'Peg though the rain is heading here for the weekend, so I'm trying to enjoy the nice, hot weather while I can. I love your "bookends", they're so adorable!! Thanks for sharing how you pick your character names, since I often wonder how authors decides which ones to use. Hope the rain stays away for you guys in Alberta, so you won't have to worry about more flooding this year! :-)

  5. Thanks Anita—got the wellies ready!

  6. Aww, the picture of Emma and Clive is adorable! I'm a big fan of names in books although I'd have to say one pet peeve of mine when reading is how to pronounce the names, especially in historicals. But it's definitely important to have the correct name. Kit is a wonderful and a strong sounding name!