Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Great Name Debacle

The more observant of my readers on my Livejournal blog have noticed that the main character from SHIVER has changed names. This is sort of eerie, since I hadn't realized I'd babbled about them enough to realize the names weren't the same, but the fact is, it's true. Sam Roth (which is, for the record, the best name ever) the character from SHIVER who becomes a wolf for the winter, is now Lee Spence.

That sentence, my friends, is the result of 16 hours of baby name book searching, thousands of calories of cookie dough consumption, silent raging, not silent raging, denial, googling, and finally, acceptance.

Because this agony is something that other authors will probably have to go through and because it gives me an excuse to look at a photo of Lee Pace, I'm going to tell my sordid little naming story here.

So. This all started way back when my werewolf story was only a twinkle in my eye. I'd had the dream that sort of laid down the premise, but only two of the characters (neither of them main characters) came with names in the dream. (And one of the two names in the dream was "Robert de Niro" so I had to change it anyway). I can't start writing a novel until I have the Perfect Names for my main characters, so I was in the brainstorming phase. I wanted something sort of timeless, soft-sounding, and inherently sad and emotastic. Which brought me to Sam, partially because of the way that Meg Ryan said, "Oh, Sam," in Addicted to Love, after she's torn his heart into little tiny pieces and feels bad about it, but is stuck in the floor, so she can't do anything but watch from afar and say:

"Oh, Sam."

I just thought . . . whooo, shivers. I imagined the scene where Grace, the other main character, first sees him as a person after years of obsessing over him as a wolf. And when she asks his name, he says, "Sam." And I knew that was it.

Except it wasn't. Because there is this author y'all may have heard of, Stephenie Meyer, who apparently has also written about werewolves. Who knew?

That's sarcasm.

Anyway. So apparently, she also had a wolf character named Sam. Who knew?

That's not sarcasm.

I'd read TWILIGHT, but it's been a few years, so I'd completely forgotten that there was a werewolf named Sam in it. And my editors had too. And my crit partners. And basically all of the folks that had worked on the novel since last fall when I first began writing it. But not someone at the Scholastic sales meeting. And not, my editors reasoned (once they had this brought to their attention), the hoards of passionate TWILIGHT fans who had the demographics of every TWILIGHT character stenciled onto their arms with glittery pink ink. Sorry, sparkly. Sparkly pink ink. So at the very end of the editing process, after I'd lived with my characters as Sam and Grace my editors said that "Sam" had to go.

I sputtered and begged and pleaded and finally googled "sam werewolf," where I was greeted by one gagillion hits to Team Jacob and Sam Uley, The First Werewolf Named Sam. And I hung my sad head in defeat, because my editors were right, as they often are.

Which meant that my favorite bit of dialog in the entire novel had to completely change:


"Grace,” I said, very softly. “Say something.”
“Sam,” she said, and I crushed her to me.


This was when the silent raging began. Because I knew I had to do something, but I didn't want to. I still had a sequel to write, after all, and I was going to have to live with a not-Sam for another 95,000 words. It wasn't just SHIVER that was riding on this name change, it was the fate of the sequel, LINGER (probably LINGER), as well, and probably my entire sanity as well. My critique partner, Tessa Gratton, spent about 8 hours IMing me back and forth, sifting through hundreds of names, looking for the perfect replacement that would ellicit the same emotional response in me as "Sam."

The catalog copy deadline was, I should add, bearing down on us at this moment, giving us about two days to come up with a replacement. At that point, I think my mood was best classified as "angry/ morose drunk."

Examples of angry/morose drunk exchanges? This is sort of a montage of conversations that occured on Day Two of the Great Name Debacle.

DAVID (editor) to me and ABBY (other editor): How about Daniel? I've always been partial to Daniel.
ABBY to me and DAVID: Daniel is nice.
ME to TESSA: Daniel! Daniel!? Why do they keep saying Daniel to me in my hour of need? Have they not heard Elton John?
TESSA: There, there. How about Jonah? It sounds emotastic.
ME to my DAD: I need something other than Sam, even though Sam is the most perfect name invented.
DAD: Why, again? Because there's this other sampire in TWILIGHT?
ME: Werewolf.
DAD: But 'sampire' is funnier. How about Jack?
ME: Why was I ever born?

Eventually, I really buckled down, hit the stacks, and finally came back to the first name that had occured to me at the beginning of the Great Name Debacle: Lee. It was soft, reminded me of blue jeans, inherently emotastic, and moreover, was the name of the actor who I think of when I think of what Sam/ Lee looks like: Lee Pace. (cue audience reaction: awwww). So now I had Lee Roth. Like Kate Winslet's character at the end of Titanic, I was sad, but triumphant. I told my art critique partners about the name change.

One of them, my friend Nicole, said, "um, Maggie, have you, um, googled 'Lee Roth'?"

I did.

Those of you who were born slightly before me will probably already know what I found. Sigh. So, with a nod to irritating rockers who have ruined a generation of fictional "Roths", I changed his last name to Spence.

So there you have it. The story of how Sam Roth became Lee Spence and everyone lived happily ever after. And the other day, I actually said "Lee and Grace" all by myself, without accidentally saying "Sa-Lee" first. So maybe there is hope for me yet.

10 comments:

Tania said...

'fess up - how many of you immediately googled "Lee Spence" after reading this?

From "Addicted to Love"
Whats your name?"
"Mike"
"What's your name Mike?"
"Sam"

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Hhahaha, Tania! Yes! I love that movie!

Anonymous said...

Surprised he's not Lee Sams.

Bill, the Wildcat said...

"Lee Spence." I know you still gotta be going nuts over this one. Still remember you talking about the name debacle the other night. It really is amazing how much the name plays a part in a character's makeup, but it really does. Hopefully, you'll grow to love "Lee Spence," but I wouldn't blame you if it always vexed you, too.

Jo Castillo said...

I can live with Lee Spence. Sounds right romantic to me. :) Great post!

Gift card printing said...

Beautiful art work.

-Shy one- :) said...

Yeah, I can live with Lee Spence, it sounds like a great name, but I'm still recovering from the whole Sam's-name-doesn't-exist-anymore-because-of-some-other-bok thing :/ Thanks for publishing such great books, Maggie :) You rock!

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Don't worry! Lee Spence is a thing of the past -- Sam is here to stay.

Anonymous said...

Wait... so Sam Roth is staying as in no Lee Spence????

Maggie Stiefvater said...

No Lee Spence.