I had been shopping around my novel, Dead and Dying, for quite a while before I ever read Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I had heard the press, seen how my 13-year old daughter swooned over the mention of Edward Cullen, and had estimated the money Meyer made from the series at roughly a bazillion dollars, but I was a little late to the reading party. So, you can imagine my surprise (and disgust) when I found that two of the vampires in her novel–Jasper and Victoria–shared the same names with the two vampires in my novel.
Now, the problem with a situation like this is that when I submit my novel to any agent who has read Twilight, it looks as though I ripped those two names off of Meyer in a stupid attempt to cash in on her success. I say now, with absolute honesty, that I named my vampires Jasper and Victoria long before I ever heard of Twilight. Granted, the two stories are completely different, but that similarity is enough to both make me giggle that I was thinking along the same lines as an author making a heap of money and make me nauseous over the prospect of changing my characters’ names. Names are very personal things for an author and, after you have spent weeks or months or even years recording their story, they feel like people you know rather than constructs of your own imagination. To have such a long relationship with two people, almost as real to me as my actual friends, and to then have to change their names is troubling to say the least.
Care for another example of coincidence?
Today, I was sitting in Subway reading Neil Gaiman’s wonderful Neverwhere, a fantasy set in and below London. In the scene I read today, the main character, Richard Mayhew, goes to an place of unreality called the “Floating Market” which, as chance happened to place it, inside the Egyptian Room of Harrod’s department store. For those of you unfamiliar with Harrods, they have a massive area of their store decorated in the style of the Egyptian pyramids, complete with hieroglyphics and golden sarcophagi. This is odd because in my nearly-abandoned Harry Potter fan fiction piece on Mugglenet, Harry Potter and the Golden Sepulcher, I have a scene already written in that very same room and another one planned for it later (sorry for the spoiler). Yet another case of me thinking like people who are making gobs of money for doing what I would love to make gobs of money doing.
Now, the difference, of course, between writing something with a similarity to Neil Gaiman and writing something else similar to Stephanie Meyer, is that Gaiman is an excellent writer while Meyer, to quote Stephen King, “can’t write worth a darn”. Gaiman just won the Newberry for The Graveyard Book, which I have picked up and plan to read as soon as I finish Neverwhere in the next week or so. I have read Twilight, as I said, but I couldn’t make it very far into New Moon before I thought I was overdosing with the literary equivalent of some sleeping pill. My daughter may love it, the teenage girls working for me may love it, but I’m just not that bored yet.
Speaking of good books, if there is anyone reading this who is looking for one, but can’t read anything until the end of March, preorder the debut novel from Jaye Wells, Red-Headed Stepchild, here. She’s been part-friend, part-mentor, part-competition for me and I promise you won’t be disappointed by her writing.