Our name is probably one of the most personal things bout us. Even though we share it with hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of others. Whether we like it or not, it's who we are. No wonder expectant parents agonise over what their offspring should be called. In most cases, they are stuck with it for life. Though some, like my own daughter, manage to make the change. She was christened Tracey Louise, which I thought was a very pretty name, but she hated the Tracey. As soon as she started at uni she called herself Terri. Her dad, my darling Terry, used to joke that she'd had his money, had his car, and now had his name.
It did make for difficulty when her friends called, asking for 'Terri'. I had to ask - which one? And when she was married she was horrified when she realised her real name would be used and printed in the Order of Service! (She soon got over that!) Everyone, including her sister, Suzie, (christened Suzanne), call her Terri nowadays, as do I - most of the time, though when talking to relatives or old friends I still say Tracey.
Another thing about names is that many of them are tell-tale signs of how old you are. Janet must have been very popular when I was born - when I was at college there were two others in my class. Terry also had two girlfriends called Janet before the third one sealed his fate!
One of my best friends at school was named Enid, which she thought dreadfully old-fashioned, and hated, though her mother could never understand why. She always went by her middle name, which was very pretty and is still popular today, and no, I'm not going to let on what it is. But she was entered in the school register as Enid, and when a teacher who didn't know about her preference called her 'Enid' she would blush scarlet.
Though some names remain popular through the ages, most seem to go in cycles - what were the names of old people I knew when I was young are now back in fashion. Alfie and Emily are just two examples. Some however, such as Mabel and Maud have largely been left on the back burner. My own grandchildren all have traditional names - Tabitha, Barnaby, Daniel and Amelia.
When I'm writing a book, I take a long time deciding on the names of the people in the story. I have to find one that belongs in the right era and also fits their character. Once I have found the right name, I instantly get a clearer picture of them. It's fine with the hero and heroine, I don't think many people would object to a strong, good woman sharing their name. But when it comes to villains I get a bit worried. What would so-and-so think if their name is used for the 'baddie'? I've sometimes changed a name midway through because I've thought of someone who might be offended! Because inevitably, names are attached in your mind to people you have known. For instance, when I was at Primary School there was a little girl in my class who was a skinny little waif and none too bright whose knickers were frequently put to dry on the guard round the coke stove (no central heating in those days!) because she'd had an accident. If ever I picture a similar character, her name instantly pops into my mind, though I've never used it yet!
Sometimes with minor characters the same name occurs to me time and again, so my editor has to point out - 'There are rather a lot of Freds..' or whatever! And one of my regular readers made the mistake of reading the heroine's name wrongly in my Janet Tanner Oriental Hotel. 'Why ever did you call her Elsie?' she asked me. I had to point out that she was actually called Elise, a name I'd taken a long time choosing!
So there you have it. And besides being Janet I'm also Jennie and Amelia, and once, long ago, when I wrote a couple of bodice rippers which were all the rage at the time I was Jade Shannon. I thought Jade was perfect for that!
In fact, I'm very happy with all my names. Though my mother very nearly called me Grace .... And I'd have liked that too. In fact, my heroine in the new family saga I'm writing is called Grace. But that's a story for another day ...