A Note on Names

I often get asked about the names in Living With Ghosts. There are, I realise, a lot of them. It's something to do, I suspect, with the way my mind works. I love languages, I love to play with words, I love explore the shapes and forms that a given language produces. It's important to me that the names in my writing are right, that they fit with each other and with the cultures they reflect. That's one of the habits I caught from Tolkien.

There are three major cultures in Living With Ghosts: the Merafiens, the Lunedithin and the Tarnaroqi. The culture of Merafis and the kingdom of Gran' Romagne is inspired by the France of Louis XII - I suspect this is very obvious. In my head, I hear the Merafiens speaking a tongue very like French and that's why there are French words scattered through the book - madame, monseigneur, théâtre. The Lunedithin speak a language a little like Welsh (though their society with its clans is more based on the tuatha of early mediaeval Ireland). The language spoken by the Tarnaroqi is somewhat like Old English, somewhat like Old Irish. (Their society isn't derived from either of those, however, but that's for a different book.) When I am searching for names for characters and places, it's important to me that they have the right sort of sound and shape for the culture they belong to. It's important to me that they feel authentic. I'm always thrown my names in books which seem to be completely random or unconnected to each other. For me, a name is a vital part of a person's full cultural background.

In my second academic job, I was a research assistant to a project finding and recording all the surviving letters, land-grants and other documents produced by the native kings and princes of mediaeval Wales. As a result, I spent months poring over Chancery Rolls (the collections of all the official documents produced or authorised by the royal court of the English kings), cartularies (collections of the land deeds and grants possessed by monasteries and churches), collections of historic letters, back issues of antiquarian journals and all sorts of old records. They were full of interesting, unusual or forgotten names - English, French, Irish, Welsh, Scandinavian, Italian. After a while I began keeping lists. They have proved to be invaluable in my quest for just the right name with just the right feel. Sometimes I've borrowed them outright - Kenan, for instance, is a 12th century spelling of Welsh Cynan. Sometimes I've adapted them - Thiercelin (from Tiercelin), Miraude (from Méraude).

It doesn't matter how you pronounce them: I really don't mind. But for those who want to know, this is how I pronounce some of them.

Merafien names: I say these as if they were French.
Thiercelin, Thierry - TEER-celan, TEERy.
Yvelliane, Yviane - EV-elleeanne, EVeeanne. ("Yv" like the "ev" in the word "event").
Miraude - MEER-ode.
Firomelle - is pronounced as it's written.
Joyain - Jhwhy-an. (The "Joy" is pronounced like the French word "Joie", so the "J" is a "jh" sound, rather than the hard "J" of words like "just" and "jug". Or you can say "Joy-an".)
Gracielis - Grass-ee- AY-liss.
Merafis - MER-raf-ee.
Valdarrien - is pronounced as it's written, but "Valdin" is "Val-dan".
Lunedithin names: these are somewhat Welsh, so "dd" is pronounced "th" (like the "th" in "this"); and "Y" is pronounced "u"( like the "u" in "up").
Iareth Yscoithi - Yareth Us-COY-thi. The "I" is said like the "y" in "yacht".
Urien - Ooo-ree-en. (Armenwy is pronounced as it's written).
Kenan - Kay-NARN.
Tafarin Morwenedd - Tav-AR-in MorWEN-eth.
Lunedith - as it's written.
Tarnaroqi names are largely pronounced exactly as they're spelt, so Quenfrida is Qwen-free-da, Sigeris is, well, Sig-e-ris.