All my life I have been asked about my name: “Are you related to the author?” “Are you Jack London?” When Editor Mindy reed and I began the hard choices for the pubisher, we discussed whether to publish under the name ‘Jack London’, ‘Jack W. London,’ or ‘Jack Woodville London.’ (I wanted to publish under the name ‘Alice London’s husband.’ Mindy said no.) Suffice it to say, names are something I’ve had to think about a lot.
Number 2: February 2009
The launch : February 13, 2009, at Book People, in Austin, Texas.
What’s in a name?
So, where do character names come from? Book titles? Chapter titles?
Names can be chosen to imply a character’s nature just by the sound of the name: J.K. Rowling conjured up ‘Malfoy’ from the latin root words for evil deeds. They might come from someone the author has on his/her mind: Evelyn Waugh hated one of his professors so much that every novel he wrote included a stupid, or lazy, or mean, or pedophilic character with the same last name.
Apart from my own name, there are two plays on words in the title of French Letters: Virginia’s War, both of which are core to the story. During the pre-publication stage I received a call from Stephanie Barko, the publicist, who said ‘Jack — I just talked with Jane Manaster! Do you know what French Letters means?’ I said I did; I can still hear Stephanie’s note of uncertainty as she said okay and hung up the telephone. About five minutes later I received a call from Jane Manaster. I had not yet met Jane, a blurb endorser who had been asked by Stephanie to read and consider endorsing the novel for readers, and I admit I was a bit flustered. She got right to it: “Do you know what French Letters means?” I said “Of course– that’s why I chose it for the series title.” We both burst out laughing, and Jane went on to say ‘I just got off the phone with Stephanie and she had never heard of it.’ Jane grew up in England and lived through the blitz and, more recently, is the past president of the Texas Historical Society. So, if you don’t know, or if you just want to hear her lovely British voice, ask her at the launch; she’ll tell you.
As for the other play on words in the title, well — I’m waiting. Send me a post and tell me what you think it is. We’ll blog on it next time.
Posts: French Letters is a novel. It is not a true story. It is not based on any person, living or dead, not on my family or yours. The background events and the historical details are as accurate as I could make them but Tierra, Texas, never existed, nor did Virginia, Poppy, Will, or anyone else. Now, having said that, the story is rooted in what actually happened. The daily life of Tierra in 1944 was the daily life of you, your parents, the people they knew, as best I could write it.
The blog is just as important: I would like for everyone to remember theirs or family or friends’ stories, dances at the lake, saying good bye at the train station, sending and receiving ‘V-mails.’
Please post your stories on the blog and share them. Don’t let them be lost to time.
First Post-publication review: Jani Brooks of Romance Reviews Today: “The prologue of VIRGINIA’S WAR grabbed my attention, and once the story is laid out for readers, it’s difficult not to read to the end! Everything comes to a head in an exciting, and somewhat surprising, conclusion. I’m looking forward to the continuation of the French Letters Trilogy. This is Mr. London’s debut novel, and it’s an excellent beginning!”
See you February 13. Make someone happy on Valentine’s Day with French Letters.
Last minute update: I have been asked to do a book signing at the Maple Street Bookstore in New Orleans, April 1, 2009. (No, it’s not an April Fool’s joke, a book signing by Jack London…..) Tell your Crescent City friends to meet me there. — Jack
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