HALLIE EPHRON: Today I'm happy to welcome Patricia Skalka. I had the pleasure of getting an early look at her new book, DEATH AT GILLS ROCK (the second Dave Cubiak mystery). It's a terrific police procedural with a moody broody detective and a haunting Green Bay Wisconsin setting. Fans of William Kent Krueger, C. J. Box and Nevada Barr: take note!
BOOK GIVEAWAY: Patricia will be giving away a copy of DEATH AT GILLS ROCK and DEATH STALKS DOOR COUNTRY to a lucky commenter.
She raises a great question about character names. What names stick with us?
PATRICIA SKALKA: One of my all-time favorite detectives is Arkady Renko, the brooding and
conflicted hero I first met in Martin Cruz Smith's memorable Gorky
Park. I like Arkady both as a man and as a protagonist. But I also like
his name. It's short and snappy, easy to remember and eminently more
pronounceable than most Russian monikers. If I could ask Smith one
question, it would be: How'd you come up with the name?
That's a question I'm often asked about Dave Cubiak, the protagonist
for my Door County Mystery series. The Door County Peninsula juts out
between the cold waters of Green Bay and those of mighty Lake Michigan.
It's a real place in northern Wisconsin, a mecca for artists and
tourists and with all that shoreline, all those rich forests, all the
blue sky and the stunning sunsets — a perfect locale for murder.
Death Stalks Door County, the first book, and now the newly released
Death at Gills Rock... but Door County did more than give rise to the
mysteries, it also inspired my hero's name. I wanted something short and
snappy and easy to remember. I wanted an ethnic name, and although an
authentic Polish spelling would be Kubiak, I allowed for a bit of poetic
license. I also wanted a protagonist whose name would lend a bit of
alliterative flair to the series title — the Dave Cubiak Door County
Readers seem drawn to Dave. Despite being badly bruised by life, he has a good heart. Men say they like him because he's a regular guy. Women fuss and worry about him. Is Dave okay? Is he getting better?
Since I turned from writing nonfiction to fiction, I've spent a lot of time thinking about character names. I scour news articles, play bills and concert programs for names that are unusual and appealing. I listen to other writers talk about their quests for names: how they do it, what appeals to them, what appeals to their readers. I also find myself thinking of characters that have resonated with me through time. Detectives like Arkady Renko, Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Jane Marple, Lord Peter Wimsey, Nero Wolfe and, of course, the indomitable Nancy Drew who started it all for me.
Each protagonist began simply as a name in a mystery but quickly evolved into someone unforgettable. These are a few of the names — the people — on my list, and I wonder: Who's on yours?
HALLIE: One fortunate thing about writing standalones is that if I go astray with a character name, I'm only saddled with it for one book. It's a huge responsibility naming a series sleuth and it's cool that Dave Cubiak echoes Door County. It's also unique, and it's got a "k" sound in it which I think is always a plus, I'm not sure why.
Names I like. Stephanie Plum is one that's stood the test. Evanovich says she picked the name because she wanted a nice juicy name... or words to that effect. Not because "Plum" is a character in CLUE. V. I. Warshawski. Like Cubiak it speaks to Polish working class. I named a character Mina Staunton, and she promptly outgrew that name and become Mina Yetner. Needed some ethnicity.
I'm still stunned by how many of my friends have named characters Hallie or Hayley... nods to Lucy Burdette and former Red Jan Brogan. Me and Hayley Mills used to be only Hallies/Hayleys I'd ever heard of.
What are the character names that have resonated with you? (Remember to qualify for the book giveaway you need to comment.)
ABOUT THE Dave Cubiak Door County series: Mysteries pit a former troubled Chicago cop
against a roster of clever killers on the Door County Peninsula in the
heart of the Midwest. Set against a backdrop of stunning natural beauty,
the series kicks off with Death Stalks Door County and continues with Death at Gills Rock.