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Slideshow: 4 YA authors on selecting names for characters & handling writers’ block June 6, 2010

Posted by Diana McCabe in Authors, Fun stuff, News.
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How do some of the most popular YA/paranormal romance writers deal with writer’s block? Choose character names? And what advice do they have for aspiring authors? Kim Harrison. Kimberley Derting. Ellen Schreiber and Kelley Armstrong shared their thoughts with about 100 fans Sunday at the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in San Diego. Here’s what they had to say.

On picking names for characters:

Ellen Schreiber (VAMPIRE KISSES 7: LOVE BITES): Names just pop into her head. Raven’s name just came to her. It’s a little goth. She wanted something more formal for Raven’s mysterious vamp guy — hence the name Alexander, whose character, Schreiber says, is loosely based on Johnny Depp.

Kim Harrison (EARLY TO DEATH, EARLY TO RISE, THE HOLLOWS series, including DEAD WITCH WALKING through BLACK MAGIC SANCTION): Goes to the dictionary, checks out baby name sites for ideas. The name for Kisten (the vamp who was a significant other in the Rachel Morgan stories) came from the dictionary — a kist, is a stone chest or coffer for holding money.

Kimberly Derting (THE BODY FINDER): Won’t use names of people she knows because she worries she’ll use the real person’s characteristics in her fictional character. She selected the name Violet — the heroine of THE BODY FINDER who hears the “echo” left behind by those who have died violently — because it was one she was considering if she’d had another child. For names of the 10 dead girls in THE BODY FINDER, Kimberley asked her nieces “who wants to be a dead girl” in the book  and all but one said yes. Then she asked a few friends’ daughters the same question for the rest of the names.

Kelley Armstrong (THE RECKONING, OTHERWORLD series): She goes through lots and lots of names. Chloe (THE DARKEST POWERS trilogy) was a name she’d given to another character in a different story. But she knew it didn’t work so she changed it. Simon and Derek (foster brothers in the trilogy) “just fit,” she said.

Dealing with writer’s block:

Kelley Armstrong: Maps out her story. She says writer’s block comes from not knowing where the story goes next, so she has to figure out the storyline. Also, blocks occur from lack of confidence. “Yes, even published writers suffer from a lack of confidence. … I just force myself to write first drafts,” she says.

Kimberly Derting: Gets out of the house. A drive in the car with some music on — anything her kids’ listen to will suffice so she might have on rap (her 17-year-old’s choice) or the Jonas Brothers (her 9-year-old’s preference)  but just getting out and away seems to help her later when she sits down to write.

Kim Harrison: Goes back to previous stories to figure out a character’s motivations. Kim says she gets stuck when she’s got a character doing something they wouldn’t normally do, so she goes back and tries to figure out why they’re pursuing this path. That usually unblocks her.

Ellen Schreiber: Goes to Target. She says shopping or walking around helps her a lot. Sometimes she sees something that inspires her or gets her thinking in a different way.

Advice for aspiring authors:

Kim Harrison: Join a writers’ group that gives critiques and feedback. Also, write like you have the contract and don’t stop until you have reached the end.

Kimberly Derting: Go to writers’ conferences and take some workshops. And read everything you can get your hands on.

Ellen Schreiber: Go to an inner circle of people you trust, show them your work and take their feedback.

Kelley Armstrong: If you’ve got an idea — start writing. Don’t wait until you think you’ll be a better writer. Don’t waste your idea. If you want to write — write.

Keeping your ideas/plots fresh:

Kimberly Derting: Says she’s not run into that challenge yet because she just released her first book!

Kelley Armstrong: Asks herself, “How many times have I had this character kidnapped, abducted, sedated?” If she runs into duplication, she tries to put a new twist on it and make it different.

Kim Harrison: Says she’s working on her writing  so she can vary her style a bit more. She thinks if she improves her craft, she can keep her ideas and style fresh.

Ellen Schreiber: Her stories are set in Dullsville, which is dull. But vamp Alexander is always taking Raven on dates … romantic dates .. so she’s constantly looking for new ideas for date night!

Line notes: It wasn’t too hot waiting in line. But there sure were some interesting distractions. A couple of ninth-graders in front of me shared a vanilla frappachino, wondering if they’d be exchanging cold germs. One girl popped in some fake fangs for her book signing. But before they both entered the bookstore, they sprayed themselves with some sweet vanilla perfume because they thought they had body odor. I tried to dodge the after spray, but missed. Had a headache the rest of the day.  And then a young girl behind me — probably an eighth or ninth grader  — kept singing that Susan Boyle song “I dreamed a dream” over and over and over again — right behind my ear. Her voice was OK. But I just got tired of the song. No one else was telling her to shut up so I just put on a grin. At least I only had one book to sign. You should see the loads of books fans bring. I’ll have to do a separate post on that next time. (If you attend any book events, send in your pics and tell me what happened at your event. Would love to post ’em.)

Kelley Armstrong, Kimberley Derting, Kim Harrison and Ellen Schreiber at the Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego.


1. Lisa Champ - June 7, 2010

Sounds like it was a good time. Although, I would have definitely wanted to smack the Susan Boyle wannabe. There are many songs that I can listen to over and over again, but that is not one of them. 🙂

I have the first two books in Armstrong’s Darkest Trilogy sitting on my TBR pile – maybe I need to start those next…

2. Sneak peak at ‘Desires of the Dead’ & music that inspires YA author Kimberly Derting « Paranormal Romance - October 18, 2010

[…] Slideshow: 4 YA authors on selecting names for characters & handling writer’s block […]

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