Saturday, August 30, 2008

What's in a Name? by Mona Risk

What’s in a name?

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was sure it would be a girl. I called her Mitzie, talked about her in the feminine and even bought her a few pink dresses. At the time, there was no ultrasound to know the baby’s sex before birth. A month before delivery, my mother suggested that if, by any remote chance, I had a boy I should remember to call him George because all first-born boys in my family were called George, my father included. Around the same time, my mother-in-law sent me a letter saying that if I had a boy, he absolutely had to be called Leo like his paternal grandfather. Both grandmothers debated together and agreed the baby should be called Leo George. Both grandfathers couldn’t care less about the baby’s name.

Hey, how about the mother? Did she have any say in the matter?

There was no doubt for me that my baby would be a girl, but what if my intuition went wrong and I had a boy? To be prepared I studied both family trees and eliminated from my list every name that belonged to either family. Together my husband and I chose a boy’s name and kept it secret.

Sure enough, my intuition failed big time and I had a boy. His name was a first for both families. Both grandmothers fussed about the baby and forgot their arguments about names.

So the name was not as important as the person, the character.

I follow the same principle when I name my characters and stay away from relatives’ and friends’ names so that no one thinks he/she can recognize themselves.

In my novels, my heroes are all foreigners and my heroines, all American. I have two Russian heroes, Sergei and Fyodor, three French heroes, François, Olivier and Luc, an Italian, Roberto, a Greek, Stephanos (heroine calls him Steve) and a Puerto Rican, Marc (his relatives call him Marquito).

The names chosen for my heroines lend themselves to the story. In To Love a Hero, Sergei likes to transform Cecile’s name into a Russian one, Cecilya. In one of the first scenes of French Peril, François can’t remember Cheryl’s name, and uses the French endearment that always works well for this playboy. He calls her chérie and she smiles, thinking he knows who she is. In that same book, I had a lot of fun playing with names for the secondary characters, mostly foreign students: Adriaan is Dutch, Roberto Sicilian, Juan-Pablo Spanish, Karl German and Chuck Minho Chinese. I made sure not two names started with the same letters.

Two days ago, I was at my doctor for a checkup. Everyone there knows I write novels. I distributed bookmarks for French Peril. The nurse, a lovely woman called Jocelyn, asked me if she could be in my next book. I needed a name for a nurse and told her I could use a Jocelyna. But then, Gaby, the clerk who books the appointments, protested that she too deserved to be in my book. She always gives me immediate appointments. This woman is a gem. For her I created a Gabriella in my current whip. Now, the whole staff is impatiently waiting for the book where Jocelyna and Gabriella will hold a role.

Names are important. They become synonyms of a story. If I say Scarlet, won’t you immediately think, Gone with the Wind? But it’s the character that makes a name immortal.

What could be more exciting for a young American architect than to live in a French chateau owned by a young count and to work on the restoration of a chapel in the Loire Valley?
But when her professor is poisoned because he knew too much about a missing statue, Cheryl's summer job changes into a dangerous treasure hunt and Count François is faced with a difficult choice:
Are the statue and his chateau worth endangering the life of the impetuous young woman who's turned his life upside down?
Review Your Book Review, 4 Stars
Mona Risk, author of French Peril, offers her fans another great read. In French Peril, she creates a swirling air of mystery around the excavation of a chapel ruin. Murder, mystery, and intrigue seem to follow Cheryl as she assists Francois on his project…. Risk has a talent for character development. Cheryl is a multitalented, impetuous person. Francois is romantic, determined, and very protective. French Peril is a great contemporary romantic read.
The Romance Studio Review: Overall rating: Sensuality rating: Mildly sensual
This is a wonderfully exciting romantic suspense novel. The characters are appealing and the setting is very romantic, a chateau in the Loire Valley. There is an interesting cast of characters. The plot is full of action and the reader is never sure who is on the side of good or evil. As a matter of fact, very few are who they appear to be. The love story between Francois the Comte and Cheryl is very engrossing all on its own. Cheryl is a very earnest grad student. I really liked her character; she has spunk as well as brains. The various plotlines converge into a very exciting climax that will surprise the reader.


  1. Love the bit about your son's name, Mona. Thanks for sharing with us. And French Peril sounds marvelous!

  2. Hey Mona, excellent review and great blog. Thank you for coming to post with us!!!

  3. Thank you Anny, Cindy, Kelly, Regina and James for inviting me on your Oh Get a Grip. I'm a faithful reader of this blog and enjoy your challenging posts.

  4. I haven't read a novel that has used my name, although it featured a lot in the Da Vinci Code! ( chuckles)

    But I have been lucky enough to have had books dedicated to me ! It showed that people really cared enough ...

    Yes, fighting over whose name it would be is a useless waste of energy. In fact, from that point of view I feel that a name is just a Utilitarian necessity & none of us were born with one attached to our butt cheeks..Branded...

    In India, the call the lineage "Vansh" & a Son is the carrier of the family name! So if people keep having girls, they continue to produce children till a son is born to them so as top keep the name of their vansh alive!( one of the secrets of Indian over population)

    & I wonder how many of them really remember or know their great great great grandfathers' names!

  5. Ha ha, Mona:) My intuition was spot on for kids #1 and 2, but failed me completely with #3. He was going to be called 'Jessica' if it was a girl and a combo of both grandpa's names if a boy. When he popped out, I was so stunned, it took me a week to get used to his new name!

  6. I never understood the big deal about names. Although I feel sorry for the celebrities' kids named Apple or Sury. In Arabic, Mona means Wish, although in my case Mona was the diminutive name of Simone, a name my mother loved and my father disliked so much he nicknamed me Mona , and later officially changed Simone to Mona.

  7. Mona, thank you so much for serving as our guest blogger! Excellent excerpt!

  8. I love how you did your OWN thing while naming your son. All the foreign names are wonderful.

    Thanks for blogging with us, hon.


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