Guest blog – Night and Chaos
I knew several boys called Ryan growing up, but I didn’t stumble across a girl called Ryan until I started reading Point Horror books (I had a ridiculously large Point Horror collection. I wasn’t allowed to read Stephen King, so I invested heavily in Point Horror instead). I can’t remember the plot or the title of the book, but I remember the heroine was called Ryan, and that for some reason that really lodged in my brain. For whatever reason, I thought being a girl called Ryan was pretty cool, and I must have filed that idea somewhere in the back of my mind. When I first came up with the concept for the Deva Chronicles, the very first thing that popped into my head was the heroine. And I knew she’d be called Ryan.
So I wrote away quite happily and then submitted the first chapter to my writers’ group...all of whom assumed Ryan was a boy and were confused when it turned out she had breasts. A lively debate ensued in which I insisted readers would understand Ryan was a girl and everyone else suggested alternative names for her.
I vacillated for a while, trying to think of girls’ names with the same “feel” that Ryan had for me, that still suited my heroine and conjured up her image when I wrote it. I thought maybe Rhianna or Rianne would be a nice compromise, but the minute I changed names (even mentally), I changed the character. Ryan, as I always envisioned her, was brave and cautious, prickly but yearning for affection. Rhianna or Rhianne didn’t hold those connotations for me. Now, I’m sure if I’d started writing NIGHT AND CHAOS with a heroine called Flossy, I could still have made her brave, cautious, prickly, or whatever I wanted her to be, but for me there was no changing Ryan.
I’m a firm believer in the right name for the right character, and have agonised over stories in the past because one of the characters just wasn’t working. And I usually find that as soon as I stumble upon the right name, everything comes together. I don’t know why – I’m sure I’m not alone in this though. So there was no changing Ryan, although I admit that my writers’ group’s confusion over Ryan’s gender stuck with me while I redrafted NIGHT AND CHAOS. I did have visions of readers spending the whole book worrying over whether Ryan was a boy or a girl. Nobody’s mentioned it to me yet, so I guess my fears were unfounded, which is nice!
I’m interested in how other people feel about it though – does seeing a heroine with a traditionally male name bother you?
Night and Chaos
Ryan McCarthy fled Applied Paranormal Theory and Tactics, her father, and her lover six years ago, desperate to build life away from the weird science and supernatural experiments of her childhood. But everything she hoped to escape comes back with a vengeance when she’s kidnapped and tortured by a possessed APTT employee out for revenge on the man responsible for his possession: Ryan’s father.
Now, reunited with the lover she abandoned, Ryan is forced back into a world of danger and darkness she no longer understands, pursued by enemies with powers she can’t fathom. But Ryan’s not entirely powerless herself. She’ll have to use every trick she knows – as well as the mystic gift she hates – to stay ahead of those enemies. And that will be easier said than done.
Naomi Clark lives in Cambridge and is a mild-mannered office worker by day, but a slightly crazed writer by night. She has a perfectly healthy obsession with giant sea creatures and a preference for vodka-based cocktails. When she's not writing, Naomi is probably either reading or watching 80s cartoon shows, and sometimes she manages to do all three at once. Find out more at http://naomijay.blogspot.com/