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, it's just a great name. And so Juliet Blackwell was born!