Thursday, February 16, 2012

In the year 2027

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Remember when the year 1984 seemed so weird and far away? And then it arrived, and it seemed so strange. Though Big Brother did not appear. (That we know of.) 1985 arrived and we were fine and back to normal.

Then the year 2000! Whoa. There was going to be--what was it called? Y2K! And everything was going to collapse and computers were going to fry and we stockpiled tuna and cash. And then nothing happened.

Debut novelist Kira Peikoff is looking even farther ahead--to 2027. Her writer-brain has concocted a world where destroying an embryo is considered first-degree murder. Fertility clinics still exist, giving hope and new life to thousands of infertile families, but they have to pass rigorous inspections by the United States Department of Embryo Preservation. Fail an inspection, and you will be prosecuted.

Whoa. There's more.

Brilliant young doctor Arianna Drake seems to be thriving in the spotlight: her small clinic surpasses every government requirement, and its popularity has spiked—a sudden, rapid growth that leaves the DEP chief mystified. When he discovers Arianna’s radical past as a supporter of an infamous scientist, he sends undercover agent Trent Rowe to investigate her for possible illegal activity.

Can't you just envision the movie? Very Margaret Atwood meets Michael Crichton, don't you think?

But today Kira Peikoff lets us in on a secret--how fact and fiction can merge...across time and across years and across generations. And how one decision our parents made--can open the doors to new worlds.


by Kira Peikoff

I was named after the heroine of a novel. Props if you can guess which one. It always surprises me when strangers guess right off the bat, something that’s only happened a handful of times. Once on a plane, the lady next to me shocked me by sharing that the origin of my namesake was her top favorite book. Most people never make the connection. But, fellow mystery lovers, my first and last name are all you need as clues. OK, a little Google might go a long way too.

Growing up, I was somewhat afraid to read this book, to face the “Kira” of literary lore. I’d heard my parents talk of her courage, her strength, her goodness of spirit. It sounded like a lot to live up to. I have no siblings, so I imagined this Kira a little bit like an older, phantom sister. Someone on which to model my own character. No one I’d ever met shared our name, so even if that’s all we shared, it seemed like something. A connection. A link. But I didn’t know her yet, because I wasn’t ready to answer the question that lurks in my name: does my spirit live up to the expectation created by hers?

In my early years, the closest I would come to finding out was taking her book down from the shelves and opening to any random page, then counting the number of times our name appeared. It was greatly amusing for a lonely little kid with literary tendencies. I’d already discovered my love of reading, so I understood the singular joy and power of language to transport us to other worlds. My favorite characters felt as real as friends, so I believed Kira would too, one day. It felt almost rebellious to steal these peeks into her grown-up world, when I knew I was still too young to visit there. Then one day, I turned to the last page.

Kira got shot. She died a gruesome death, bleeding out on a snowy hill, alone.

I was horrified. Kira—murdered?! How could my parents have saddled me with such a legacy? I felt practically betrayed, and ignored the book for ten years. Why would I want to get invested in such a sad story, anyway?

But then one day, a few years after college, I decided to find out. It seemed ridiculous to go through life never having read the book that inspired my name. Also, by that point I’d read enough Tolstoy and Hugo to understand that some stories require unhappy endings. With my own life getting figured out, I finally felt ready to meet the other Kira, secure in the knowledge that I was myself, whether or not I was like her, and that was OK.

It was difficult, at first, to immerse myself in her world, one so different from my own. Communist Russia. Despair, darkness, extreme poverty. I wondered if I would be able to relate to this girl at all, having grown up in an idyllic seaside community with all I could ever want. But soon I found myself developing a real affection—and admiration--for Kira. She was the epitome of a pure, life-affirming soul. She struggled nobly against injustice, without sacrificing any of her spirit, until her tragic end. When she died, I burst into tears, real streaming tears—despite knowing all along what was coming. Rarely have I reacted to a book with such emotion.

I finally understood what my parents saw in her. My name, and all that it embodies, is a gift. Even though I’m not an oppressed minority in a war, I face my own battles every day, as small and insignificant as they are in comparison, and I draw encouragement from Kira. She loved being alive; she cherished beauty and her own spirit, the man she loved and the meaning of freedom. These precious things made her life worth living, even if, to keep them, she had to risk—and lose—everything.

As necessary as her death was for the story’s theme, it was only a paragraph in 464 pages of a heroic life. After all, it’s not so much endings that matter. Otherwise, my parents might have shied away from my name. It’s how we face our beginnings and our middles.

The heroine in my new novel LIVING PROOF, Arianna Drake, shares Kira’s strength of character and perseverance. She also faces an uncertain existence in an oppressive world, but her positive spirit shines throughout.

I won’t tell you her ending, but suffice to say, if a little girl is ever named after her, I hope she will find—as I have--nothing but hope and inspiration in her namesake.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Kira, you make me cry. Thank you. When my mother died, recently, I told her I had come to terms with the name she and my father gave me, Harriet. I had always loathed it, I thought it was so old-fashioned and uncool. After all , the cool girls were all Debbies and Lindas.

But recently I cane to realize--it's--competent. Strong. Harriet Vane, you know? I embrace it. Fully. And I cannot describe to you Mom's face when I told her that. It was like something had come full circle.

Reds, where did your name come from? And we'll give a copy of LIVING PROOF to one lucky commenter!


KIRA PEIKOFF has written for The Daily News, Newsday, The Orange County Register, and New York magazine. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from NYU and has worked in the editorial departments of Random House and Henry Holt. She lives with her fiance in New York City, where she is working on her second thriller. Visit her online at

A thought-provoking thriller by debut author Kira Peikoff, Living Proof is a celebration of love and life that cuts to the core of a major cultural debate of our time.


  1. Hi, Kira. LIVING PROOF sounds very exciting! I crave books with strong women of character.

    Ah, my name . . . too much story in my name, but I'll give it a try. When I was born I was named Kathleen. That lasted something like 3 1/2 days. My father's family loved it. My mother's family thought it sounded Irish.

    My mother wanted to name me Marie-Reine. My mother's family loved it. My father's family thought it sounded French. She compromised by naming me Maureen. She thought it meant the same as Marie-Reine. Maybe it does, but I don't think so. What's important is what she thought.

    It turned out that everyone was happy with Maureen, especially my father's Irish family. She told her family it was English for Marie-Reine, so her French family called me Marie-Reine. Her indigenous family called me "Rain," and her Métis family called me "Wren."

    The story of my name got me interested in family history. It seems that I have quite a few Marie-Reines and Reine-Maries in my ancestry. It also appears that i have ancestors from early Salem who were named Mary but changed to Marie when they went to Québec, then back to the English form on their return to Salem some time after the witch trials.

    Okay . . . here's what I like the most. One of these ancestors had the last name of Gamache. Some day I'll meet Louise Penny and tell her. I adore Reine-Marie Gamache!

  2. My mother was named Harriet like Hank. Harriet was her middle name, though; her first name was Millard -- an amalgamation of my grandparents' names, MILdred and bernARD. He never used his first name and always went by Frank. Somewhere along the line, my mother added a T and an E to become Harriette. "That's Harriette with two Ts and an E" was a sentence I've heard oh so many times.

    My own full name is Ralph Harold House, but I have been called Jerry from the day I was born. Ralph came from my father and Harold from a friend of my parents
    who was killed in World War II. Harold, for reasons I have never learned, was always called Jerry. When I was young, my brother and I would make up the most insane stories about where the name Jerry came from; we both felt pride because everyone outside the family would believe these often contradictory yarns.

  3. Reine, I always call you Wren.

    No such convoluted tale here. My mother was all set to call me Linda--a name I've been called by mistake my whole life, along with Carol--and then she changed her mind to Karen. I've always liked the name; it's one of those names that can't be shortened easily. My middle name is Louise, after an aunt who was my godmother, and I have two other friends, one who shares my birthday, named Karen Louise (including Peach, if any of you know her from TLC).

    Our kids have more interesting stories behind their names, but that's another story. :-)

    Whoa! What happened to the captcha?

  4. Okay, well, I already posted this on FB, but if a story's good, why not tell it twice, right?

    Besides, your book sounds awesome!

    My parents eloped, so to reconcile their two families they named me after my dad's mother Sarah and my mom's father Leo.

    There was no pastry company when I was born--although I don't mind the connection. I like it when people sing the jingle to me.

  5. Karen, You're pronunciation of my name is correct! My Irish Aunts pronounce it Reen, because they know it as short for Maureen. Legally, I spell it that way. Personally, I opt for French spelling and pronunciation-- except in Indian Country where people know me as Rain. I like that, too.

    I'm having too much trouble with this Captcha. Can't read the words. Can't fathom - at all - the sound version. I'm swearing right now. A lot.

    Before I try this new Captcha for the last time I'll add the story of my two youngest kids' names. We adopted them when they were almost 8. They'd had several news in previous adoptive homes that didn't work out and were then using their birth names. We allowed them to pick new names. One chose a name from my family, Paul. The other chose the name of a friend, Kris. After we'd told them they could pick their own name, we realized they might pick something odd so were holding our breath!

    Okay -- and for the last time -- seriously -- this Captcha is that hard for me to do. On try # 12.

  6. Gah. I'm named after a cow.

    Okay, not exactly, but my dad had a cow named Sandy, and he really liked the name. Mom told him he could choose the name but she got to choose to spelling. I'm Sandra, always called Sandi.

  7. Okay this is really the last time I tackle this Captcha. After reDiling ;(;/3!?/!!!!#^ Sandi's post I have to do at least one more.

    Sandra, called Sandy is the name of an old childhood friend. She was named after her father, Joe, who was called Sandy when she was born. His name was actually Thomas.

    CAPTCHA TRY 17: Never again. Really.

  8. What??? What's this??? This is a yucky captcha..let me see what's going on..

  9. I know--my captcha was in greek, literally, greek with greek letters! Abnd sadly, there are no greek letters on my computer... grrr..

    I have made..inquiries...

    NAmed after a COW?? That's an ew one, I must admit.

    And I say Wren, too...xx

  10. Fascinating premise, Kira... and very current (and scary.) Of course, for me "Kira" will forever be a Start Trek character. Good thing I didn't get named it or I'd never have found my calling in crime fiction.

    I'm 1 of 4 girls, and my mother wanted to give us unique first names. Like Hank, I've come to appreciate mine. With a little context, people rarely say "Hallie who??"

  11. Kira, the premise of your book sounds fascinating--and, unfortunately, closer to becoming real all the time!

    I was named Linda Lynette, but my parents always intended me to be called Lynette, as I was by everyone until i went to school. Then, suddenly, I was this person Linda, and I couldn't ever change it. But deep inside, I still feel like Lynette.

    What is with this captcha? Why has it changed to this unreadable gobbledygook?

  12. Hi, Kira,
    I'm named for Anne Shirley, of Green Gables fame. However, my parents changed it to Shirley Anne, because it "flowed" better when combined with our last name.

    I use Shirley in some situations, and use Anne in other situations. (Some people can't spell Shirley, but they can spell Anne.)

    And Hallie, that was my grandmother's name. I like it.

    The histories behind names is fun. My husband's grandfather named all his sons after his best friends. Some names work - and others aren't as successful in this age. As my husband says, "I'd tell you my first name, but then I'd have to kill you." LOL!

  13. Love the premise of this book. Will anxiously await announcement of the winner. My name is Michelle. My mother was going to name me Melanie, but her sister had a baby 3 weeks before her and stole the name. So I was named Michelle. I was born before the song by the Beatles, but was serenaded throughout my life with the lyrics.

  14. Kira...

    is already one of my favorite names because one of my best friend's named her daughter that. But I had no clue of its literary background until now so thank you so much Kira!

    Congrats and good luck with the book.

    My first name, which is actually Janice, is actually my Polish grandmother's last name: Janiec. I wish my mother had dared to spell it the Polish way. Then at least I'd be alittle different from all the many Janices in my grade school.


  15. Thanks for all the support! It's fascinating to hear the stories behind all your names. I wonder...if we were all named something wildly different--if I was Jane, or Reine, you were Michelle, for example, would we all be exactly the same people? How much do we define ourselves by our names?

    Linda, you hit on this point when you said you still feel like Lynette deep down...I wonder what pulls us to certain names and not others? My middle name is Lily, which almost became my first name, but I never could see myself as that!

  16. I was born Isabel Lilly-my parents wanted me to have "international" names. The only trouble is I was Isabel through out school, and all legal situations. I'm a naturalized citizen-so Isabel is my social security name. But everywhere else I was Lilly, until a boy I had a crush on called me Lil, and that was that. It causes all kinds of songs to erupt, and a mess in medical offices.
    Your book sounds fascinating and not too hard to believe. I look forward to reading it.

  17. Hey, you're talking to Harriet Ann Sablosky Landman Phillippi Ryan Shapiro.


  18. Oh I wish I had an interesting story for my name...I was born in 1966, and which name was THE most popular name for girls around then? Yep, you got it: Lisa.

    So dull. There were always at least four other Lisas in my classes. My younger sisters are named Nicole and Kara. So much better!

    As a kid, I used to rail against my boring name. I mean RAIL. How come you named me LISA? Why did Nicole and Kara get the cool names? And so on...Now I'm glad to say that I like my name.

  19. I'm named Joan Elaine. The Joan was for Joan of Arc. My aunt, primary babysitter, refused to call me Joan because she disliked another relative named Joan so I was Elaine all through growing up. My mother had a pet name for me - Jody. When I met my husband on a blind date, he got the choice between Elaine & Jody. He picked Jody & I've been Jody ever since!

  20. Hey Lisa,

    For the record, Lisa is still one of my favorite names.


  21. I love these stories!

    My mother and her sisters were Miriam, after Miriam Hopkins, Sylvia after Sylvia Sydney, and Norma, after Norma Shearer.

    And I love the name Lily. And me, too, Lisa.

  22. There was a hilarious cartoon in the New Yorker several years was drawn like a typical first grade class photo, you know? With three rows of kids and their frumpy teacher.

    The caption said:
    First row: Jennifer, Jennifer, David, Jennifer, David, David, Jennifer, Jennifer, David
    Second row: Jennifer David, David, Mrs. Prohaska, Jennifer, David, David, Jennifer, Jennifer
    Third row: Jennifer, David, David, Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer

  23. Thanks, Jan!

    Oh, that's too funny, Hank. I love The New Yorker for their cartoons! That's classic.

  24. My dad wanted to name me after my grandmother "Loretta" but my mom didn't like it, so it got shortened to "Lora". Which is a little different, I don't know many Lora's or Laura's. But for some reason I get called "Lori" A LOT!

    The story behind my son's name is funny. Our first boy was named after my grandfather, Parker. My husband's family was mad and very vocal about it, because Parker is not good Catholic name, like "John" as my father in law told me. I was a little angry to say the least.

    So when we found out our second child was going to be a boy as well, my husband wanted to name him something a "little more Biblical". FOR WEEKS I called the baby, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego" , much to my husband's dismay. That's biblical, right? We compromised on Lucas.

  25. My father named me Fionuala. Yikes .I couldn't pronounce it myself till I hit five. Mercifully my family called me Nuala but only after strong lobbying to change my name to Jane. Funny, because my two sisters had normal names, Linda and Nancy. I still think I would have made a great Mercedes.!

  26. My dear daddy had picked out my name when he was still a boy, Mary for the BVM and Francis for his own mother. When he explained that, how could my mother argue. On Dad's (Catholic) side of the family, I am Mary Frances partly because there are so many Marys . . .
    When my brother Dave was born, one of my aunts was upset because my mother had used "her" boy's name. Fortunately, she had a girl, or we may never have heard the end of it . . .
    I have already requested Living Proof from our library, you know, just in case I don't win.
    You know, these word are really hard to read -- what is bloggers problem?

  27. My dear daddy had picked out my name when he was still a boy, Mary for the BVM and Francis for his own mother. When he explained that, how could my mother argue. On Dad's (Catholic) side of the family, I am Mary Frances partly because there are so many Marys . . .
    When my brother Dave was born, one of my aunts was upset because my mother had used "her" boy's name. Fortunately, she had a girl, or we may never have heard the end of it . . .
    I have already requested Living Proof from our library, you know, just in case I don't win.
    You know, these word are really hard to read -- what is bloggers problem?

  28. It looks like this new verification words business could prevent me from participating in most JRW conversations! I've been trying unsucessfully to respond since before I started work this morning, on break and at the end of the day. In addition to having to copy an illegible word with an inkspot smeared over it as well as a more traditional captcha word, I discovered that there was no "Publish"command available for my response! I am hoping I will have better luck responding via electronic device. Had to go out tonight; I would have posted sooner.

    Reine, I hope you are still checking in tonight: I have always thought your name was pronounced Rain but if you prefer Wren then I will immediately begin pronouncing it correctly. One of my pet peeves is people not bothering to learn the correct pronunciation of someone's name,even if the person is a neighbor or business associate or student,etc.In my opinion,that is rude and disrespectful! So please let me know how to pronounce your name!

    Lora...if you shorten your son's name to Luke around certain relatives, you hav a Biblical name!

    I,child number one of five, was named for Deborah from the Old Testament. At the time that I was born,it was sort of unique. About a year later,there were numerous baby girls being named Deborah or Debra. We lived in the next apartment over from a blended family that had TWO daughters with that name! By the time my parents got to child number five (who was also daughter number four) they were torn between two names that were not too common at the time: Denise and Wendy. Seems like they always tried to find a unique name,and then a year or so later,that name had suddenly becme popular.They let me,as oldest child, cast the deciding vote for the newest baby girl. A few weeks before my sister was born I had seen Peter Pan on TV and I LOVED the Wendy character,and that is how my youngest sister became Wendy.

    As an adult, she has had a lot of serious medical problems. Over the years,when she would be at a doctor's office or picking up copies of her medical records at a hospital,and when her date of birth was verified, she would have to correct the employee -her date of birth would be off by three days. She eventually discovered that there was another woman in the area with the same first and last name, and that they were born three days apart!

    Well,THIS is odd: my captcha ords have changed ince I began typing this response. Huh.

  29. OH, my goodness. The stupid captcha words. According to our (adorable) web people, these are the future. And everyone is hcanging to these. And we had no choice. Sigh.

  30. And I'll say it again..I LOVE these stories. It really makes me contemplate the names give my characters...thank you!

    Kira.. welcome--hope you visit again soon. Still almost two hours til we pick a winner!

  31. Such a fun conversation, everyone! Hank, I agree: this will make me think extra hard before deciding to name my characters. And I'll have to think about why THEIR parents named them that--something I hadn't considered much before.

  32. Oh NO! Illegible captcha words CanNOT be the future! It makes me feel like the (adorable) web people think there is nothing wrong with disqualifying loyal blog fans from participating in the daily conversations. I can't even READ one of my current words and will probably have to make a couple of stabs at it.

    Oh,and every now and then I have thought of changing my last name to my mother's maiden name or my grandmother's maiden name...just because they are not very common names. Or change my first name to Sophia because it means Wisdom...and I would like some!

    Cannot put it off any longer...I must try to type the captchas...grrr...

  33. I know, Deb, I told the web people these captchas stink--as I said, I had one that was in some other alphabet..sigh.

    We'll persevere, right? It would be so terrble to miss any of you..

    And yes, Kira, you are so right! It's a wonderful question to think about..

  34. Deb, only for you am I facing the Wrath of Captcha! Thanks, Kid. You are too sweet. xo

    Ohhhh Captcha! Here we go!

  35. Oh, Hank! You too! I could NEVER leave Jungle Reds now that I've found you. xoxo

    . . . holding my breath . . .

    here goes 2nd try . . .

  36. I've always thought my name sounds like someone throwing up...

    My mom was a teacher and she had a hard time agreeing to a name that didn't remind her of a student. If I had been a boy they were going to call me David after the funeral director who helped my dad get into the business...

    I cannot tell you how many times people have sung, "Hey, hey, Paula..." to me - and thought they were extremely clever!

  37. I love names and naming stories!

    My brother named me Leslie Ann, after the cutest girl in his 3d grade class. Only when he suggested it did my mother remember she had considered it when expecting him -- and it had a popularity bump in both the late 1940s and the late 1950s. I disliked it as a kid because too many people still thought of it as a boy's name, but came to love it.

    (My captcha word is -- herself!)

  38. I hope no one hates me for saying this, but this new captcha discriminates against people with disabilities. I tried the alternative MP3 file, and I can't pick out any words from the noise.

  39. The fact that I eventually get it, after multiple tries, does not mean that it is a reasonable imposition.

  40. No, Reine, it's not a reasonable imposition, but the way blogging sites go, I know the Reds don't have a lot of choice in the matter. I hope you can still stay with us. We would miss your comments SO much! xoxo

  41. We're trying trying trying to fix the captcha..but apparently its the wave of the future.according to our website people, we have no choice, and this is the captcha you're going to see everywhere now.

    You see how if you don't like the one you get, you can get a new one?

  42. Michelle--ma belle :-) you are the winner (in a random drawing) of Kira's book!

    Please send me your
    h ryan at whdh dot com


  43. I was named after John Lennon's son Julian

  44. Hi Linda- thank you. I'm not going anywhere. I don't want to lose the teensy voice I have, the "onliest" one I have right now! I need to speak up. I don't blame the Reds, but really someone must say it. The digital designers need to make it work so that people with disabilities can use it.

    It was difficult enough before this latest change, but at least I could do it without hurting or fatiguing my muscles. If there were no choice I, and others with mobility and various physical issues, would have to come up with our own solution. But-- there is no reason why the words cannot be disguised and yet distinguishable with the human eye-- or discernible on an MP3 file.

    Hi Hank, you know I adore you. The reason I love you so much has nothing to do with your terrific books or your scintillating blogs. I love your work - your day job work - your devotion to setting things right. I'm asking your help here to keep a significant portion of otherwise-able consumers from using the on-line community resources that the able bodied community, more commonly known in the disabled community as TABS (Temporarily Able Bodied), takes for granted. xo

    Trying again... oh geez... new weird and evil captcha menace has cleverly come up with: Ada- ngram.

  45. Hank, no I don't see how to get a new one except to keep entering until I get it right. Do tell me the secret!

    No no, evil and wicked captcha has a mind that screws with my psyche. Below it is telling me to write: Thrace enablio. So is Voldemort behind this? This is my 3rd try on this particular comment, after all, and my last for awhile, as my muscles are giving out, freezing up, paralisting to port and starboard. xxxxxox

  46. To get a new captcha word: See by the "type the two words" there's a circle with an arrow? CLick on that.

  47. Hi Reine-There is a circular arrow next to the enter box on the right. Sometime, I keep doing it until there is one I can read. Sometimes, I say the letters out loud to help. My eyes are not what they used to be. This is a little beyond security, and I still get spam. I subscribe to Tim Hallinan's blog , and his web master did away with it. It's just very frustrating!

  48. trying to correctvstatement from, "I'm asking your help here to keep a significant portion of otherwise-able consumers from using the on-line community resources that the able bodied community... " to: I'm asking your help here to prevent the keeping of a significant portion of otherwise-able consumers from using the on-line community resources that the able bodied community... .

    CCATN READ CATCHA once more arms gettingfrozenin place hah 'place' is first captcha word, invisaE IS @...\ crap.. 2nd thats it fr now

  49. thanks hank lil i see it now oh no is not even like english will test the retry thingy

  50. Yeah, I think they get easier as you keep trying them...

    I just got
    author ftermagi

  51. :) ohhank xo

    ha 1st cptchva = sneeringly

  52. Well, when I saw Hank's post about Mrs. Prohaska's first grade class, I felt I had to weigh in at this late date.

    Like a lot of women born around the same time as me, I'm a Jennifer. A lot of those women were named for the character in Love Story, which of course was hugely popular as a book by Erich Segal and then a movie starring Ali McGraw and Ryan "Love means never having to say you're sorry" O'Neal.

    My Mom has always insisted that the Love Story character is not my namesake, and I've always believed her because Mom is not the sentimental type. And if she'd known how popular Jennifer would turn out to be, she might have been inclined to go with my Dad's choice, Lorraine. For which, apologies to all the Lorraines out there, I'm eternally grateful.

  53. Dear Kira,

    Like your parents, we named our first born daughter Kira after the character in We The Living. I hesitated over the tragic ending, but decided that Kira's heroic character was so present and strong that my daughter would understand what her name represented. As I recall, We The Living was Ayn Rand's first novel. Kira's character foreshadowed Howard Roark- his steady resolve and integrity no matter what the world threw at him.

    I so enjoyed your article on what your name means to you. When my eleven year old daughter Kira gets a little older, I intend to show her your article. I know she will find it meaningful and come to understand how special she is to us.

    Thank you for writing.


    Jim Weaver