Welcome Back Guest Catriona McPherson

Catrionia never fails to make me laugh and this post isn’t any different. She’s celebrating the release of Scot Mist, the fourth book in her Last Ditch mystery series. Here’s a bit about the book:

March 2020 and Operation Cocker is a go! The owners of the Last Ditch Motel, with a little help from their friend Lexy Campbell, are  preparing to support one another through the oncoming lockdown, offering the motel’s spare rooms to a select few from the local area in need of sanctuary.

While the newbies are settling in, an ambiguous banner appears demanding one of them return home. But who is it for? Lexy and her friends put a plan into action to ward off the perpetrator, but the very next night, a resident disappears and a message scrawled in human blood is found.

As California shuts down, the Last Ditchers make another gruesome discovery. They tried to create a haven but now it seems as if everyone’s in danger. Is the motel under attack from someone on the outside?  Scary as that is, the alternative is worse by far.

Catriona: A Roderick by any other name, would smell as sweet.

I’ve never named a child. (When I was having fertility treatments I did tuck some names up my sleeve but, even though it’s twenty years later, they still don’t feel like something to share.)

I have named kittens, and it’s been suggested that I gave them baby names (I didn’t.)  Maggie and Arthur were first, then Clive and Poppy, Carrie and Spud (See? Who’d call a baby Spud?), Dennis and Rachel.

And now there’s a pond outside I’ve had to name fish: Gloria aka Lumpy, Biggles, Max, Tiddles, and Imogen Brocklehurst. If you can work out the policy there, you’re doing better than me.

Of course, mostly I name characters. I gave Leagsaidh Campbell – the heroine of the Last Ditch series – her name in an effort to fictionalize how it feels to be called Catriona in the USA. Her name is pronounced “Lexy rhymes with sexy”, like my name is pronounced “Katrina like the hurricane”, but she gets called “ . . . pause . . . Lego-what?” like I get called “Cahhh . . . what?”

It made me really happy to hear a British podcaster correctly call Caitriona Balfe “Katrina like the hurricane” recently. She must go through a lot.

It wasn’t an issue as long as I stayed in Scotland. (There were three Catrionas in my class at school.) And I wasn’t entirely joking when I asked my niece and nephew whether they named their baby daughter to make sure she never emigrated. As long as she stays in Scotland, or goes no further than Ireland, Eilidh will be called “EH-ly” with no fuss. If she ventures over here, she’d need to get used to “Eyelid” till everyone was trained.

All this thinking about baby names is because there are four of them in SCOT MIST. Two of the new characters who come to spend the lockdown at the Ditch bring babies and toddlers with them.

It was a new experience in character naming for me: baby names so recently chosen reveal a lot more about the parents than the children. What I mean is, I think the woman who called her kids Navy and Salem is definitely different in some way from the woman who called them Bob and Joan. Right? Paltrow and Cusack names, these. Cusack after the acting family with John, Joan, Bill, Anne and Susie, not the one with Sinead, Niamh, Padraig and Saoirse, obvs.

As Noleen, owner of the motel, says – “There’s gotta be a happy medium.” Or, as Ricky Gervais (I think) once said – “If you want someone in your family to have a funny name, change your own.”

How do people ever do it? How does a decision that momentous ever get made?

 One friend of mine was so sure she was having a boy that she struck a deal whereby her husband could name a girl. It was a girl. She’s hated her daughter’s name for twenty-five years.

Parents can pass on their own names. Like Nigel Lawson did, when he was an obscure back-bench politician. Then he became a very high profile chancellor of the exchequer and his daughter, Nigella Lawson, sounded like a drag queen. She one-upped him by becoming even more famous, of course. “Nigel Lawson” just sounds weird now.

Sometimes parents outstrip even Gwyneth Paltrow to wield their ultimate power. Jamie Oliver’s kids are called Poppy Honey Rosie (sounds like it was chosen in the “never again” zone, if you ask me), Daisy Boo Pamela, Petal Blossom Rainbow, Buddy Bear Maurice, and River Rocket Blue Dallas (or “Seriously this time never again”.) Who are Maurice and Pamela, is all I want to know.

In the end it doesn’t matter what someone’s called, does it? Names leach of all meaning when you get to know their bearer. (This isn’t true of Navy, Salem, Bob and Joan, by the way. Their names do some work in the plot.) But still it’s a big responsibility and I’d love to know, if you’ve done it, how???

Bio: National-bestselling and multi-award-winning author, Catriona McPherson (she/her), was born in Scotland and lived there until immigrating to the US in 2010.

She writes historical detective stories set in the old country in the 1930s, featuring gently-born lady sleuth, Dandy Gilver. The latest of these is 2021’s THE MIRROR DANCE. After eight years in the new country, she kicked off the comic Last Ditch Motel series, which takes a wry but affectionate look at California life from the POV of a displaced Scot (where do we get our ideas, eh?). Book 4, SCOT MIST, came out in January. She also writes a strand of contemporary psychological thrillers. The latest of these is last year’s A GINGERBREAD HOUSE.

Catriona is a member of MWA, CWA, Society of Authors, and a proud lifetime member and former national president of Sisters in Crime.  www.catrionamcpherson.com

37 Thoughts

  1. Welcome, welcome, Catriona! (I still can’t remember how to pronounce Saoirse…). Some of those celebrity-children names truly make me scratch my head.

    We named our first son after both his already deceased grandfathers – Allan William – with a first name that has three spellings. Oops. Second son is John David – no spelling issue there – but their last name, Hutchison-Maxwell, comes along with having to add, “Hutchison with no N in the middle.” People really, really want to stick that N in the middle.

    I can’t wait to read the new Lexy book!

    1. My best guidance is “trying to say SEARCHER while hammered”! Also – Jon?

  2. Hysterical Catriona!

    I’ve not named a child, but all of my critters have had ‘human’ names. So much so, that in a younger day I claimed if I ever did have kids, I was naming them Ruff and Spot to even things up.

    1. LOL! There’s a great gag about that very issue in THE GUILT TRIP. Very funny movie and also about parent/child stuff.

  3. Ooh I love those black kitties! My last 2 blacks were Prince and Sheba. I miss them terribly! I picked out names from the Bible for my children: Jesse and Sarah. I’m always and forever looking up how to pronounce Irish and Scottish names!

    1. The Bible has some beautiful names – like those two. But also some humdingers: Hepzibah springs to mind. (But did you know that Jezebel is getting some use again? Hard to credit. It must be people who don’t actually read the text, right?)

  4. Welcome back and thank you for always making me laugh. I confess, years ago, when I first saw your name I pronounced it Cah-tree-own-uh. Don’t ask about how I pronounced Penelope when I was a child. I decided in fifth grade if I ever had a daughter I’d name her after the girl in my favorite book series (the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace) –Elizabeth Warrington Ray–called Betsy. My daughter’s name is Elizabeth Rae. Elizabeth also turns out to be a family name on both sides so it all worked out well.

    1. Funnily enough – see previous comment – I just thought that there’s no phonetic reason we think of Elizabeth as beautiful and Hepzibah as not, because they’re pretty similar sounds. If QE1 had been QH1 maybe your daughter would be called Zebby.

  5. Welcome, Catriona! There is a Saoirse on one of my teams at work, which is the only reason I know how to pronounce that one. The one that trips me up all the time is Siobhan. I’m still not sure I have it right.

    My kids were relatively easy. There is a tradition in my family to name the first girl after both grandmothers, so there wasn’t much discussion there. With my son, I got to pick the first name and The Hubby picked the second name.

  6. Three cheers for a new Lexy Campbell story, Catriona! I’m of Irish descent, so my kiddos are Ryan Seamus and Aidan Matthew. The older one goes by Shea now. It blows my.mind how many different ways people here in the States spell the name – Aiden, Aden, Aydin. To each their own, I suppose.

    1. Don’t even get me started on Welsh. We got so lost driving in Wales: by the time you’ve deciphered the road signs you’re five miles past the turn.

  7. Personally understand the problem folks have with names. When my Grandfather immigrated to the U.S., his name came out most times sounding like son of a bit……. He changed his name to my Grandmother’s mother’s maiden name. So that’s what my maiden name was which I was teased as it being “cowlick”. Always wondered why he didn’t pick Jones or Smith. It didn’t have any connection to my choice, but sure was glad when I married that it became something simple and not easily mistaken for some other “odd” wording on the name.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. My sister-in-law is Polish and her name is something she says, mournfully, sounds beautiful in Polish! Mind you it could always be worse. I was reminded watching Pointless last night that there was an Egyptian ruler called Arses.

  8. My story is the same as Sherry’s. I decided on Katharine Jane for a daughter when I was a romantic fifth grader, then had the good fortune to marry a man whose grandmother’s name was Katherine. As for my son, we were down to two choices and after 30 hours of labor followed by a caesarian, my husband said I could call him anything I wanted! I think both my kids like their names so I count that as a triumph.

    1. My parents got 2/4. Sheila and I like our names, Wendy and Audrey don’t, but not enough to change them. My poor Granny McPherson had to cope with both her daughters changing their names: from Minnie to Mia and from Annie to Nancy.

  9. I have only named dogs, I’m afraid. And characters, which is the fun kind, and you can move that about up until the cut-off of publication. (Although I did some renaming late in the game once and got asked not to do it again, as the jacket copy had been written. It was actually just a secondary character, but noted.) MY name was chosen from television, a soap opera, I believe. I believe I may be one of the last women named Lori spelled my way in America. I don’t think I’ve ever met one younger than I am; they are usually 5-10 years older, or Laurie.

    1. Huh. That’s surprising. “Lori” sounds young to me. But then – brain catching up – I am older than you are!

  10. What’s in a name? I guess too much in my mind since I could never think of great character names the few times I try to come up with one when I tried to write fiction. I’ve never had to name a child, and I am glad because I am sure I’d struggling even worse.

    1. I think Mark is pretty much the perfect name. Everyone can spell it. Everyone can pronounce it. It’s got a good meaning. Bravo your parents!

      1. I like it, but you’d be surprised at the people who stumble over it or can’t spell it (there is the alternative Marc.)

  11. Hi Catriona, I love your books! All this talk of names is hilarious. When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband told me that if we had a girl I could name her whatever I wanted to, but if we had a boy, he said very firmly, “I won’t tolerate soap opera names.” I asked him what he meant by that, and he spouted off a litany of names– Chandler, Chase, Dallas, Ranger, Fox–you get the point. I now have three sons, all with good biblical names, Jim, Dan, and Matt. Thanks to their dad, they’re very happy about that. As for character names, part of my daily walk includes a very picturesque cemetery. Let’s just say that there are some real characters buried there! Best wishes with Scot Mist!!

    1. Now I am agog for the soap-opera girl names that didn’t get an airing! Also, did you ever see that John Cusack film . . . what was it called???? . . . where he’s discussing baby names and his girlfriend floats one that your husband would not approve of. JC goes “No way! You gotta give him a name that’s a name. Like “Nick”. Nick’s your buddy. Nick’s the kind of guy who doesn’t mind if you throw up in his car.” !!!

      1. I’m laughing! I totally know that John Cusack film and the memorable line, but I don’t remember which one that was. That movie could very well have been my husband’s inspiration for his silly “no soap-opera names” rule. LOL!

  12. I just love this post by Catriona and the topic. Catriona makes me laugh and I named my name. Back in the day, I was a Chicago Bulls fan and I so wanted my nephew to be named Jordan and I won.

    1. I always wondered if “dru” was short for something. You just are not a Drusilla to me.

  13. Great post and I look forward to the next Last Ditch book. I always wonder about what some of these celebs are thinking when I see names like “god.” Really! He can change his name, she said. Yeah, look it up!

    In the Jewish faith, it is typical to give a baby a Hebrew name as well as an English (or French or German, etc) name. Usually, it is a family name of a deceased parent or grandparent, someone beloved. It’s a lovely tradition, but it opens the door for more debate over whose name, how to choose the name, and whether it needs to really translate to the English name. Ah, yes. So much fun!

    Catriona (Katrina), looking forward to your new book!!

  14. I admit I named my daughter after Angelique on Dark Shadows. But only because I loved the name and character was so well acted (and beautiful). My daughter likes her name, and is glad she is called Angie so she can occasionally find tschotkes with her name. My poor father was named Odilla Lawrence Gonzaga Jordan. He did change his name to Odell when he became an adult.

    1. Angelique is a beautiful name. (reminds me of Leonard in The Big Bang Theory bemoaning the fact that he’s got “nerd” in his name and wishing he was called Angelo because that’s got “angel” and “jello”.

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