Celebrity Names Blog

What Do Writers Name Their Babies?

What Do Writers Name Their Babies?
David Shankbone/wikimedia commons

Holden Caulfield. Atticus Finch. Scarlett O'Hara. Hermione Granger. Bella Swan. The names writers choose for their characters are a major source of inspiration for contemporary baby namers. (See the impressive popularity graphs for these names: Holden, Atticus, Scarlett, Bella.) But when it comes to naming their own children, what do writers choose? We investigated the baby names of some contemporary writers to find out.

Edwidge Danticat (pictured): This Haitian-American writer, who recently won a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant," has daughters named Mira and Leila. As she explains in Brother, I'm Dying, Mira is named for her father.

Rick Moody: The author, known for his experimental style in books like Demonology and The Ice Storm, recently welcomed a daughter named Hazel Jane.

Jumpha Lahiri: The Indian-American author of Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake, Lahiri named her son Octavio after an emperor. Her daughter Noor's name also has "historical significance."

Jennifer Weiner: The wildly popular author of such "chick-lit" favorites as Good in Bed, Weiner named her daughters Lucy Jane and Phoebe Pearl.

Steve Almond: This author of such books as Candyfreak and (Not That You Asked) named his daughter Josephine Colette.

Stephenie Meyer: We can't stop talking about the romantic vintage names the Twilight author gave her characters. Her real-life children? Gabe, Seth and Eli. (She has said that, after struggling to name her character Isabella/"Bella," she went ahead and used the name she'd been saving for a daughter.)

Sarah Dessen: The author of such popular YA books as Lock and Key and How to Deal, Dessen named her daughter Sasha Clementine.

Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Kraus: After the novelists named their first son Sasha, they've kept the name of their second child private.

Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon: He won the Pulitzer; she caused a ruckus with this sentence: "I love my husband more than I love my children." Together, they gave life to Sophie, Ezekial "Zeke" Napoleon, Ida-Rose "Rosie," and Abraham Wolf.

Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida: These contemporary novelists, who also co-wrote the screenplay for Away We Go, have two children, daughter October Adelaide and a son whose name has not been released.

A few observations: Jane is the most popular middle name (with two writers choosing it), while Oct- is the surprising most popular first syllable (belonging to two babies, or three writers).

What else do you notice? What names are your favorites? What did your favorite writer name her babies?



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February 22, 2010 1:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I was really disappointed in Sarah Dessen's name choice. Her characters are named so well, and then for her own kid, she went with Sasha, a nickname. Alexandra Clementine, called Sasha, would have been much, much nicer.

The same thing goes for JK Rowling. She came up with such thoughtful, carefully chosen names for her characters, and her youngest daughter is named Mackenzie, a trendy surname. Sigh. Her older children are David (good) and Jessica (named for Jessica Mitford).

Stephen King has three (adult) children, Naomi, Joseph (Joe), and Owen. I have always wondered if the dominant O-theme was intentional.

February 22, 2010 3:09 PM
By Lane

I think that's interesting too, anon -- when we find an author's character names more interesting than her "real" names (as in, for me, Stephenie Myers... Gabe and Eli are nice, but they're not as exciting as Jasper or Emmett).

Actually, Sasha is also the name of Jonathan Safran Foer's son. I'm personally fine with Sasha as a full name.

February 23, 2010 11:31 AM
By Barbara C. (not verified)

I don't think that writers necessarily just pull character names off of their favorites list. They try to give names that will inspire an immediate impression of the character; physical descriptions of a character are easily forgotten after the first chapter but the name defines the character.

I can totally see writers using less "defining" names for their own children, because they can see how a name can shape a person. Not to mention that most writers do not have complete autonomy when naming their children; there is another parent with an opinion.

February 23, 2010 1:50 PM
By AYTY (not verified)

Chabon has long been one of my favorite authors and I adore the names of his and Ayelet Waldman's four children.

As an aside, I named my own son after a character in a Chabon book!

February 23, 2010 3:10 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

As a writer myself, I use names for my characters that I love the sound or image of, and that fit the kind of character I want to create, but that are perhaps a bit braver than the names I've chosen for my children. You know your children have got to build lives around their names - the characters only live within what you write.

February 23, 2010 7:29 PM
By Caroline (not verified)

John Green, author of Printz-winner Looking for Alaska (in which the main character is named Alaska Young) and An Abundance of Katherines (in which the main character is obsessed with the name Katherine), and his wife just had a son named Henry Atticus. I think it's really the perfect name for the baby and for a description of the family as a whole.

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