Sunday, August 16, 2015

On Titles and Naming Characters by Scott Wilbanks, Author of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster + Giveaway! (US only)

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster
Scott Wilbanks

Page Count: 400
Release Date: August 4th 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Literary fantasy, Magical realism, Time travel

Annabelle Aster doesn’t bow to convention—not even that of space and time—which makes the 1890s Kansas wheat field that has appeared in her modern-day San Francisco garden easy to accept. Even more peculiar is Elsbeth, the truculent schoolmarm who sends Annie letters through the mysterious brass mailbox perched on the picket fence that now divides their two worlds.

Annie and Elsbeth’s search for an explanation to the hiccup in the universe linking their homes leads to an unsettling discovery—and potential disaster for both of them. Together they must solve the mystery of what connects them before one of them is convicted of a murder that has yet to happen…and yet somehow already did.

How I Came Up with Character Names and the Title

It turns out that naming a book isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sourcebooks (my publisher) wasn’t too keen on my original working title, Abbott's Door, and sent me on something of a fishing expedition. Everything I came up with was politely nixed, however, and I found myself resorting to Google out of desperation, doing searches using random word combinations for lack of a better method.

Since a good portion of my novel takes place in turn-of-the-century Kansas, I knew I wanted the title to evoke that vibe, and included the term Victorian in each search. That’s when I stumbled across the word lemoncholy in an online compendium of Victorian slang. The word was too delicious to pass up. I knew I had to incorporate it in the title in some way.

According to the dictionary, it was simply a synonym for melancholy, but I decided to coopt it by combining the definition of melancholy with the phrase “if life gives you lemons...” to, ultimately, be defined as the habitual state in which one makes the best of a bad situation.

The unfortunate thing was that it didn’t roll off the tongue when combined with my protagonist’s original name—Anastasia Biddleton—so she got a bit of a makeover in that department, and voilà! The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster was born.

Marching on to my characters. All five of them are misfits who seek a little understanding in an indifferent world, and needed names that reflected their character, or essence.

Christian Keebler’s name is the most symbolic, I think. He’s Annie Aster’s best friend; a young man burdened with a secret buried so deep within his subconscious that it has left him with a debilitating stutter. More than that, however, he’s Annie’s avatar of moral rectitude, though he thinks he’s flawed, having bought the propaganda of an unforgiving society that has determined his secret to be sinful. In truth, he is the Good Samaritan, the authentic Christian. As to his surname, I wanted something that reflected his innocent nature. I chose Keebler for him because of the cookies. Yes, that’s right—cookies. I wanted his last name to reflect some of my happiest childhood memories.

Then there’s Annie, herself. She’s a twenty-something eccentric living in contemporary San Francisco who is absolutely obsessed with Victorian clothes (they’re all she wears), and Jane Austen. She also struggles with a form of pre- leukemia. I chose her surname, because I wanted to evoke a flower that typically blooms in the fall to reflect the fragility of her health. Aster fit the bill perfectly. Her first name? I just liked the way it sounded.

Annie’s foil is a cantankerous, old schoolmarm living in a turn-of-the- century Kansas wheat field who possesses an arsenal of curse words that would make a sailor blush, and a take-no-prisoners attitude. I wanted her to have a name that, in and of itself, sounded contentious, even a little intimidating, and Elsbeth Grundy seemed to do the trick.

Edmond—Christian’s foil—is a sweet charmer who has a demon—drug addiction. His name came to me early on in the writing, simply because it is the middle name of a dear friend who inspired the character. I’m sad to say that a few weeks after my book went to press, and just after we’d been on the phone discussing his first international trip to visit me in New Zealand, I received an email from my friend’s sister, stating that he’d passed away from an accidental overdose. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him.

And, finally, there’s Cap’n. She’s an incorrigible street urchin living in Victorian Kansas City who survives by dent of her wits. She’s a total smartie- pants. I chose her moniker because she’s the leader for gang of young, homeless kids, half of whom are unable to pronounce “Captain” properly.

So there you have it! Naming my characters was akin to identifying their souls. Even the antagonists’ names were deliberately given. But that’s a completely different story!

About the Author

They say, “Write what you know.” Who ‘they’ may be still remains a mystery, but I took the advice to heart when I wrote a book about five misfits who found themselves walking a path I trod daily, seeking understanding in an indifferent world, but more on that later.

With my life constantly pushed and pulled by a pair of opposing bugaboos—ADD and drive—I surprised myself by graduating summa cum laude from The University of Oklahoma while also garnering a handful of titles in the sport of gymnastics.

Life-changing accidents, lost loves, and an unremarkable career path followed, that is until a lawsuit and Mike changed everything. The lawsuit motivated me to step away from my career. Mike added the extra push, convincing me to take a leap of faith, and move to the country of his birth, New Zealand, while also encouraging me to “see where this writing will take me.”


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster—yay!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What is your favorite book title or character name? Doesn't have to be your favorite book or character, just a title or name that has stood out to you!
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Scott and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks at Sourcebooks!
Giveaway ends August 30th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways for those that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!