Archive for August, 2009

clairepicWelcome Claire Saxby, who is visiting us as part of a blog tour for her fabulous new picture book “Sheep, Goat and The Creaking Gate”. 
Names are so important in books and Claire is going to talk to us about how she comes up with names for her stories and the characters in them.
1. How did you choose the name Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate?

I tried on all sorts of names before settling on this one. I’d tried different names on the characters too but none were quite right. Sheep and goats generally exist in quiet anonymity in their paddocks and I decided that fitted this story too.

2. Why are book names so important?

 Names are the entry gate to the story, the point at which the reader engages, decides whether or not they will go further. They need to tease, to entice.

3. Have you ever written a book that you just couldn’t think of a name for?

I don’t think so, I can’t think of a finished story that lacks a name. Sometimes drafts will have a working title only but generally the name comes fairly early in the drafting process. Having the right title helps me to focus on what the story is really about.

4. How many names do you generally come up with before you settle on one?

Sometimes if I’m very lucky, the first name is the one that sticks.  But more often, I will have to work my way through a number of titles before finding the one that fits best.

5. Do you ask other people’s opinions on book names?

I don’t usually ask other people’s opinions on names, although I do share drafts of stories with trusted readers. Occasionally I’ll run the final two title options past someone I trust. Usually though, I’ll keep my own counsel on choosing the title…it’s almost as if getting the title right is a sign I’ve done the work required. If I can’t find one, it’s often a sign I’ve not done enough work on the story.

6. Has a publisher ever asked you to change the name of your book?

Yes, and it was a difficult challenge to find an alternative. In the end, I had to change the name of the main character too, to make the title fit. I worried and worried at it until one night out for dinner with friends, the name of the character jumped into my head…and then the title was easy.

7. What is your favourite name for a book you have written?

Ooh, that’s a hard one! I really liked ‘Barking Barnacles’, title for a story that made it as far as final proofs before the company failed.

‘Rumblecat’ is another favourite, although that story has been redrafted and rewritten and thrown across the room and more so often that I should hate it. I still reckon it will one day find its place.

I also liked Alarming Lucy because the title did double duty…it explained the slightly skewed smile on a teddy bear’s face, but also hinted at the story solution.

8. Do you find it hardest to name your books or your characters?

Hmm. That’s like asking if it’s hard to name your children when you’ve just met them, or if it would be easier once you’ve had aeons to get to know them. Names of characters sometimes fit perfectly first go, but sometimes I’ll try a few before finding the right name for the character. Story names sometimes arrive fully formed, but if they don’t choosing them is a more concious process somehow. I’ll brainstorm them, writing down ideas, phrases, words, until the right one appears.

9. Where do you get the names for your characters from?

All over the place. I used to use made up names, like ‘Ebi’ from ‘Ebi’s Boat’ and ‘Kora’ from ‘A Nest for Kora’, because I didn’t want the reader to come to the story with any preconceived notions of the character. ‘Sheep’ and ‘Goat’ were chosen for much the same reason. I use name books and name lists online, newspapers and television. If I’m writing a realistic chapter book or longer, I’ll search lists of names popular for their times. Although sometimes I’ll choose a name NOT popular if it’s relevant that my character not belong or fit in.

10. Does the character’s name have to mean something in the story or do you just choose it because you like it? Can you give examples from your books?

Sometimes I’ll choose names that have meanings that reflect a behaviour trait I want to see in my character. Other times it may be as simple as liking the sound of a name. Recently, there was a girl in a class called Persia. She was long and lean and moved with the loose grace of a cat. I thought it was a great name and am using it in a story. Kora worked for me because when you say it out loud, it sounds like one of the noises a hen makes, and Kora is a hen!

11. Have you ever named a character and thought, ‘no that name just doesn’t suit’?

Yes, that happens all the time. The first name is chosen before I really knew the character, and as the character develops its clear the name is wrong, wrong, wrong!

12. From your books, what is your favourite character name? Why?

My favourite name? Hmm. Probably Rowdy, the dog character from ‘Runaround Rowdy’. It was the name of the real dog on which the story is based. Rowdy to me says noisy-but-nice, which describes Rowdy perfectly.

Rowdy was a beautiful Kelpie but he didn’t do things quite the way he should. He had his own way of doing things. Not stubborn, just different.

ThanSheep+Goat book coverks for coming to see us Claire and giving us valuable insights into how you name your books and your characters.

If you want to catch up with the rest of Claire’s blog tour, here’s where she has been/is going:


Monday 17August: Dee White https://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com (that’s here!)

Tuesday 18 August: Rebecca Newman www.soupblog.wordpress.com

Wednesday 19 August: Mabel Kaplan: http://belka37.blogspot.com

Thursday 20 August:  Sandy Fussell: http://www.sandyfussell.blogspot.com

Friday 21 August Dale: Harcombe http://orangedale.livejournal.com/

Saturday 22 August:  Sally Murphy http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com

Sunday 23 August:  Robyn Opie http://robynopie.blogspot.com 

Monday 24 August:  Sally Odgers: http://spinningearls.blogspot.com


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Sheep+Goat book cover

Can’t wait for tomorrow when my good friend and fellow author, Claire Saxby drops in to talk about her wonderful new picture book, Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate.

Claire is going to give us some great tips on how she comes up with names for her characters and her books.

Drop in and say, ‘Hi’.


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