What's in a Name? From Hubert to Hedley

Posted on 30th May, 2024

One question I am sometimes asked is how do I choose names for my characters. Well, in many cases, when the character appears in my head, s/he is fully formed in terms of personality and background, and they appear complete with their name. It's not often that I have to choose a first name.


But one problem I have is that I find myself using similar names within a book - hence the subtitle of this blog: From Hubert to Hedley.


If you've read my 1920s saga A Respectable Woman, you'll know that the heroine is Nell Hibbert, and early in the story she and her children are the lodgers of a devoted elderly couple called Hubert and Leonie Brent.


Hubert was the right name for the elderly landlord because it feels to me to be a gentle sort of name, and that fitted in pertectly with his personality. I'm not sure how long it took me to realise that I had a Hubert and a Hibbert in the story....


So I had to change Hubert's name, and it had to be another gentle-sounding name. After a little thought, I settled on Edwin. Perfect! Or so I thought....


....until I realised that Edwin's son-in-law, the villain of the piece, was called Edmund. Edwin - Edmund - how could I have not noticed? But I didn't for quite some time.


Finally I chose a new name - Hedley. I honestly thought I had made up this name, but some time later I came across it in my Oxford Dictionary of First Names. It was originally a surname and in some parts of England it is derived from a place-name, from two Old English words meaning 'heather' and 'wood' or 'glade'.


So there we are - the journey from Hubert to Hedley.


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Link to A Respectable Woman on Amazon


"Complete with a jaw-dropping twist near the end, this is a well-crafted novel with a strong, compassionate lead character and a splendid sense of time and place." Booklist (journal of the American Library Assoction)


"Escaping one's past is at the heart of this endearing historical romance.... rings with authenticity.... The focus on historical and emotional authenticity will leave readers heartily satisfied." Publisher's Weekly


And in case you're wondering about Edmund the villain - here are some review quotes:


"rounded, believable characters - some good-hearted, some positively scary (Edmund! What a character!)"


"a brilliantly drawn, horrible character too. (Half way through the book I just wanted to thump him! I was so involved)"


"If you're looking for a character to loathe in a book - he's your man."


"the more you find out about him and how he treats his own family, the more it made my blood boil!!"






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