Is that character name a reference to…

whats_in_a_nameYes, whatever nerdy reference you’re thinking, probably yes. Jess and I write a lot of books, about one a month. We’ll only keep doing it so long as this project remains fun. Pushing back the It Stops Being Fun date requires effort, and creating moments to smile while writing–even it it’s just an inside joke to ourselves–helps make that happen.

Well NOW, dear readers, you get to be in the joke! We’re nerds. Shocking, I know. You never saw that coming. Our first series, Her Elemental Viking, doesn’t actually have that many nerdy references (within the names, at any rate). The exception is Siobhan, the protagonist of “Her Immortal Viking.” She’s a tribute to one of our favorite Orphan Black characters. The depth of our love for that Irish, badass, rocker foster mom got us through misspelling her name about a dozen times before we finally had to start writing her in drafts as Sxx, knowing we’d have to do a massive find/replace later.

Name references are rampant across the genderswapped fairy tales, if you have an eye out for them. Leverage, as our favorite show, gets special notice: one of the TV characters’ names is in every book.


Starting with What the Queen Wills, “Cinderella” transforms into Eliot (Ella -> Eliot, the name transition isn’t too much of a stretch), a tribute for Christian Kane’s character. (Separate thought: if you wondered how much you should love Christian Kane, watch his cooking show. The answer is: a lot.) In What the Queen Wills, Eliot falls in love with Amelia (yep, we love Doctor Who as well) and Cassandra (pick a sci fi show, there’s inevitably a Cassandra. The sheet of flesh in Doctor Who is especially amazing). For Breaking the Curse, our Sleeping Beauty retelling, “Mal” is both the male Maleficent, as well as a send off to the best Brown Coat captain of all time. Nate, the male protagonist, is also a Leverage character name, although the similarities between our Nate and Nate Ford end there. In Hunting Red we have Captain Red Hardison (hi, Hardison, the required Leverage reference in our Red Riding Hood retelling), who goes by the nickname of Cap (of Captain America fame, we also like Marvel). His huntress love is Olivia, who may remind folks of a female detective of the same name from Fringe, except our Olivia wields more weapons than a gun.

We have a lot of books, continuing on with the list is going to get repetitive. And not EVERYBODY in the books is a reference. Sometimes a placeholder name made it all the way through (Casey from Alpha’s Heir, Sally from Alpha’s Domain), when those characters came into their own and changing their name felt like a disservice to the character. You know you’ve been writing too long when your characters feel like separate entities on the page who will get angry at you for changing their name without their permission.

If you know the Leverage cast, you’ll see them. Sophie’s name went to the cursed beast woman in Handsome and the Beast. Parker’s name is on the littlest gadget-loving dwarf in Snow Truer Love. Parker’s character is also going to walk over into our next book, a Rapunzel retelling, where she’s going to rescue a man trapped in a tower with a really long beard (no spoilers). Even Quinn, Eliot’s frenemy in Leverage who comes back to help them in the Last Dam Job, got a nod as the male protagonist in Handsome and the Beast.

It’s important to note we don’t write fan fiction (although I certainly have nothing against those who do). All the characters in our books are original to our convoluted minds. We clearly pull from tropes when writing fairy tales and romances, but no matter how minor the character, the goal is for everyone in our books to feel real within the logic of their own choices. Hunting Red isn’t the story of Captain America falling in love with Olivia Dunham, it’s Captain Red Hardison and Olivia the Huntress defeating the “wolf” Anya (Buffy reference). What the Queen Wills isn’t Eliot Spencer getting measured for a codpiece and costumed for a sex party by Amelia Pond (we leave that to the legit fan fiction writers to write that scenario. Actually, PLEASE write that scenario, somebody). The scene in the book is Eliot and Amelia, oppressed servants of bullying stepbrothers, looking out for each other.

Don’t ask where Lola’s name came from. There’s the obvious song, and Kinky Boots, but in reality, Lola came to both of us simultaneously and has written herself into nearly all of the books with almost no effort on our part. She is a separate magical entity who I wouldn’t dare call a reference to anything except herself. All hail Lola.

In short–long? This blog is definitely long–we’re nerds. We love Fringe, Doctor Who, Buffy, Killjoys (everybody, watch it!!!), Leverage, Orphan Black, Arrow, Flash, and on and on. And we love remembering what we love. And so we put the names of our favorite people into our books and see who notices.

Loyal readers, what other shows do you want to see make it into our books?

–Annie (the “A” of AJ)

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