Friday, August 29, 2008

What's in a name?

Juliet Blackwell is the pen-name I'm using for my new Witchcraft series (Secondhand Spirits, the first book in the series, will be released July 2009).

So, what's in a name, and why do I keep changing mine?

I wrote the Art Lover's Mystery series together with my sister, Carolyn. We wanted the books to read with a single voice, and thus decided to put a single name on the cover. Hailey Lind is a pseudonym my sister and I came up with over a three-hour phone conversation (she lives in Virginia, I'm in California). I swear, it was more difficult to decide on a name than it was to write the *$%#@) book in the first place! Lind is my middle name, and an old family name on our father's side (ever hear of Jenny Lind?). Hailey comes from my mother's side of the family.



But I'm writing the new series solo, and wanted to come up with a new moniker. It's taken me a while to get used to answering to Hailey (which I now do, so feel free to call me by any name when you see me!) and I thought it would be too much for my wee brain to introduce yet another first name. Juliet seemed slightly more formal than Julie, my real name...and I figured I'd be able to remember it even after a couple of drinks in the bar at the convention hotel.

The last name was harder. I ran through lots of options, but as I was researching the history of witchcraft, I came upon the story of Elizabeth Blackwell. Elizabeth was the first real-life, official, female doctor, graduating with an M.D. in 1849.
"Her application to Geneva Medical School (now Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York) was referred to the student body. They accepted with great hilarity in the belief that it was a spoof perpetrated by a rival school." --National Women's Hall of Fame

The joke was on them, as their first woman student quickly outstripped all the young men in her class. Blackwell was by all accounts a remarkable woman, who went on to found her own infirmary (at one point working with Florence Nightingale) and then to establish a Medical College for Women.

And what, may you ask, made me think of female doctors while researching witchcraft? Historically, many women accused of witchcraft have been traditional healers with a vast inherited knowledge regarding herbs and botanicals, bone-setting, and what we now think of as psychological problems. It was precisely this kind of knowledge and ability that made them frightening to certain sectors of society...and during times of social change and upheaval, many of these women healers have been vilified, accused of being in league with the Devil, cast out of their homes, tortured, and killed.

As fun as it is to write about a witch, the history of the theme becomes very sobering, very fast.

Anyway, I chose the pseudonym of Blackwell as an homage to Elizabeth...plus, it's just a great name. And so Juliet Blackwell was born!

7 comments:

Camille Minichino said...

Congratulations on the new series, beautiful! (I'm sure you'll answer to that!)

[Your name changing process was much harder than mine -- my agent chose mine, no questions asked.]

I love your description of the connections between medicine and witchcraft and women as healers.

Looking forward to meeting Juliet.

Terri Thayer said...

Welcome to the world, Juliet Blackwell. With your heritage, you'll be sure to do well.

I'm really excited for you. Can't wait to read the new books.

Terri

zhadi said...

This is a most excellent pen name and I love the story behind it! I don't think I'll ever settle on Julie or Hailey as far as your name, but as long as you answer to both... :-)

AnnaC said...

Thanks, guys! You're right, Camille, I should have thought of just calling myself "beautiful"...!

So great to hear from three such talented novelists! Now get back to writing those books....

Jennie Bentley said...

Congratulations on the new series, Julie! And good for you learning to answer to Hailey. It's been a year and a half, and I'm still living in fear that one day, when I'm on my way across a hotel lobby somewhere, someone will call out, "Hold the elevator, Jennie!" and I'll let the doors close in Nora Roberts's face, because I can't remember who I'm supposed to be...

My word verification is 'cavelib'. Seems like it should mean something...

A.H. Ream said...

I can't wait to read it! Congrats!

Barbara Hussey said...

Julie, I excited to hear that you new book is finally coming out. I've been looking forward to it with great expectations. I'm also thrilled that you're using the last name of Blackwell. Elizabeth's biography (for YAs) was one of the very first books I read when I got my first library card.

Barbara