As you probably saw in my previous post ‘Creating Life’, we writers draw inspiration from just about anywhere. As I move from book to book through the Aurora Series, I thought I’d give readers a little bit of background, shedding light as to where some of the ideas/inspirations came from. Think of it kind of like the extras and out-takes you get at the end of a film’s dvd. So, today, I’m starting with the basics: Names. Such a simple thing, really, but I thought it may be of interest to see how I came to christen some of the characters and places in ‘Aurora: Darwin’. Note: I’m going to attempt this in such a way as to not allow any spoilers for those who’ve not yet read the book.
For some characters/places, I merely chose the first name that popped into my head. I needed a name for someone/something and *BOOM* in it popped. So I guess in a way those characters/places really chose their own name. For others, I decided to add in a little personal touch, kind of like an ‘in-joke’, that only those close to me would understand (well, not any more, I guess). And for others, I was more particular, as I attempted to match a name to suit a specific personality.
The Ship: ‘Aurora’
I named the ship ‘Aurora’ in homage to Matt Hooper’s boat in JAWS, which, for the for the uninitiated, is my favourite film of all time. Yes, that’s true. Deal with it. In fact, throughout the entire Aurora Series I pay homage to JAWS several times, but I will only discuss the ones relating to A:D here today.
Naturally, when I had to christen the small shuttle contained within the Aurora, the ‘Borealis’ was a natural fit. Aurora, Borealis. Get it?
Captain Saul Harris:
The name for the male hero of the series came about in an odd way, I guess. I was looking for something a little different, something not overly-used. Funnily enough, I’d just finished reading the autobiography of Slash (ex-Guns ‘n’ Roses) where I’d discovered that his real name was actually Saul Hudson. I decided that if it was cool enough for a rock star, then it was cool enough for my hero. When it came to choosing a surname, I decided I wanted something simple but strong. For whatever reason, the actor Ed Harris popped into my mind. I’ve always like Ed as he often portrays good, solid characters (when he’s not playing the bad guy that is). So, I decided that would be the surname. Hence, my hero’s name – Saul Harris – came about from two mismatched sources.
For my heroine, again I wanted something that wasn’t too common, but I also wanted something feminine. I was intent on ensuring she would be of strong character, but not too butch, so I wanted a name to suit. Searching for inspiration, I started thinking about the heroines that inspired me growing up. Naturally Princess Leia from the Star Wars series crossed my mind, which lead me to think of the actress Carrie Fisher who played her. The name seemed to fit like a glove, and alas Carrie Welles was born.
Lieutenant James McKinley:
Funny story behind this one…. Back when I was writing my first draft of Aurora: Darwin, I used to do so sitting at my kitchen table with the tv on in the background. Naturally, as I work full time, most of my writing was done on weekends, so more often than not the footy would be showing on the tv (to those overseas, I’m referring to the Australian Football League). Now, being a West Coast Eagles fan, that would always be the game of footy I’d be watching. In the squad that year, there was a young up-and-coming player that my brother (a sports teacher) had taught in primary school years before. My brother had predicted to us in the family that this young guy would one day be playing for the Eagles, and surely enough he did. This player was Chris Masten. Now, when I was writing Aurora: Darwin, I thought it would brilliant to add a little ‘in-joke’ referencing this Eagles player my brother had once taught. So I decided to use his surname for one of the characters. Except……I had a completely, er, vague moment, and selected another Eagles player’s surname by mistake: that of Ben McKinley – another young up-and-coming star (at the time). By the time I had realised my mistake, the name McKinley had already firmly attached itself to my character, and it just didn’t feel right changing it. So, strange as it was, the name McKinley stayed. And I’m glad it did, because he’s such an important character, and I just can’t see him with any other name now.
This is another slightly weird one. In very early versions of Aurora: Darwin, the ‘leader’ of the survivors was the station’s chef. At some point during the writing of that first draft, I had decided that a ‘chef’ just wasn’t going to evoke the right qualities I was looking for with this character. I decided to remove him from the kitchen, but had been so used to referring to him as ‘Chef’, that I decided to give him a similar moniker. And therefore, (although pronounced with a hard ‘Ch’ like Cherry), ‘Chet’ was born.
Another funny one. When I had decided that my pilot was going to be a Kiwi (someone from New Zealand), I naturally started thinking of famous Kiwis for name inspiration. Now I didn’t even consider Russell Crowe, of course, because we just claim him as an Aussie now. But the first famous Kiwi that popped into my mind, was model Rachel Hunter (also known as the ex-Mrs Rod Stewart). And so, yes, I used the surname of a female supermodel for my spunky male pilot.
Quint is worthy of a mention because, you guessed it, this character was partly inspired by the character Quint in JAWS (played by Robert Shaw). Quint, quite frankly, used to scare me as a child, so I thought the name would be quite appropriate to use in A:D!
Tyson (Ty) Harris:
Ty only has a brief mention in Aurora: Darwin, but you’ll see more of him as the series moves on. I chose this name as another little family ‘in-joke’, as my father used to call my nephew ‘Tyson’ when he was a baby. Dad would squeeze my nephew’s little biceps and say “Look at those muscles, Tyson!” So ‘Ty’ Harris was christened after my nephew’s nickname as a baby.
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked if ‘Darwin’ referred to the capital city in the Northern Territory of Australia…
No, no it doesn’t. So, I’m just going to broadcast it now: Think ‘Darwin’ as in ‘Charles Darwin’, as in ‘The Theory of Evolution’.
The Spector (Station Darwin’s escape shuttle):
I guess this one’s a little unusual in that it has purely musical origins. I always liked the ring ‘Spector Records’ had to it, Phil Spector being the songwriter and producer behind a lot of hit songs, particularly from the 60’s. I just thought a spaceship called the ‘Spector’ sounded kind of retro cool. Unfortunately these days, its namesake Phil Spector, spends his time in jail having been found guilty of the murder of Lana Clarkson. Apparently there’s a HBO movie coming out starring Al Pacino as Spector. Can’t wait to see it, actually. I think it’ll be fascinating.
The cargo ship – Stella Maris:
This was another little in-joke. Right up until the final edits, this ship was known as the Santa Maria. I decided to change the name, but wanted something that equally rolled off the tongue. So, I substituted in the name of my old high-school (no longer in existence), which as luck would have it, had the same initials – Stella Maris.
So that’s how I arrived at some of the names of note in ‘Aurora: Darwin’. Just goes to show I pretty much took inspiration from everywhere! I’ll be doing a special ‘Names’ blog for each book once it’s released, as there are more interesting stories to come.
I hope you enjoyed this little peek into the ‘Making of Aurora: Darwin’. Keep watching this space for more over the coming months.
Until next time