A Rose is a Rose…or Maybe Not

Red rose (image via http://www.freestockphotos.biz)

I’ve got a question — Does it matter to you what an author’s name is?

I mean, does Mary carry more clout than Ashley? Does Cheyenne sound younger than Dianne? And does it matter?

The reason I ask is that my first name appears on the nation’s Top 100 Baby Name Lists from the 1940s through the 1970s.

That’s a l-o-n-g time for a name to be popular.

And while I’ve written countless news stories under my name, I sometimes wonder if “Debbie” sounds writerly enough.

Perhaps because there were so many of us Debbies in my high school class, I’ve come to think of my name as a montage of the girls I once knew. Some were cheerleaders; some were “popular”; some were musicians; some were funny.

None were writers — except me, of course. And I was more of a closet writer, insecure about my talent and afraid to be considered “weird.”

High school is like that. We try so hard to fit in, yet when the annual yearbook-signing ritual arrived, we Debbies donned new personas in an attempt to stand out. We became Debby, or Debi, or Debee, or Debra.

Some even used their middle names, though Ann in one form or another is just about as popular as Debbie is.

Maybe it’s just a regional thing. After all, I hardly knew any Debbies in college, and I haven’t come across a new Debbie in ages.

We all know baby names are cyclical. Old-time names like Ava and Ella and Abigail are once again popular with new parents, while names like Lisa and Wendy and Laurie can’t be found anywhere.

Does a name date an author in an agent’s mind? Should it?

All the writing books and magazines I’ve read stress the importance of getting characters’ names right. You don’t want to put an Ariel, for instance, in the 1950s, or a Chrystal in the 1880s. It might have happened, but if so, it was a rarity, and you don’t want to flag your ignorance in front of agents.

But what about the author’s name? Does a Chloe sound too young to pen a serious novel? Does Jane sound too old to be alive for the long haul?

Maybe I’m stressing for nothing. Maybe nobody cares but me.

And maybe I could end the whole shebang by choosing a pen-name for myself, much the way I’d do for my characters.

What do you think? Do you judge a writer by his name? Do you even care?