I know I’ve addressed this topic before, but I think it’s time I revisit the subject. It’s a question I occasionally get asked by readers.
Why did you name one of your characters after Janet Evanovich’s Joe Morelli from her popular Stephanie Plum series?
Umm…well the truth…while I had heard of Stephanie Plum, I had never read any of the books. Therefore, I was unaware of Evanovich’s “Joe Morelli.”
It wasn’t until about the third book of the Haunting Danielle series, when a reader pointed it out, that I became aware of the problem. Since Joe Morelli is such a well known character with Evanovich’s fans, I would have loved to have been able to change my character’s name. Unfortunately, by that time, it was too late.
Considering the number of books out there, I can’t even imagine trying to keep track of all the characters of other authors—even if I was to narrow it down to a specific genre. I’ve seen readers accuse authors of “stealing” another writer’s character, even when the only similarity was the first name. But the fact is, like book titles, it is impossible to have unique character names.
Sometimes a character name will just come to me. It’s as if I can’t imagine the character having any other name. Other times, I will search popular baby names of the character’s birth year. With Joe, I gave him my son-in-law’s first name.
When it comes to surnames, I often pull names off my family tree. Glandon, Boatman and Johnson are all from my family tree. However, with my Joe character, I wanted him to be Italian, so I knew I couldn’t use a name from my family tree, so I borrowed the surname of a friend.
I still haven’t read Stephany Plum, but I’ve since talked to friends who have read the series, and they tell me Evanovich’s Joe Morelli is a colorful rascal. My Joe is a bit of a—as the cliché goes—stick in the mud.
In my most recent Haunting Danielle book, The Ghost and the Bride, I finally addressed Evanovich’s Joe Morelli, when Lily’s sister points out Joe shares the same name with the fictional character. Of course, my Joe is a fictional character too, but he just doesn’t know it.