I’ve often been asked how I come up with the names of my characters. To be honest, most of the time I’m amusing myself, as many writers do with character names. With actual historical figures, of course, I’m using their real names. But since I write fiction, most of the characters can have whatever names I chose.
For minor characters, I often use the names of family and friends, sometimes in their old-fashioned forms to match the time period. For my heroines, like Ada, Ellie, Elizabeth, and Charlotte I pick names that fit the time period and their personalities. (By the way, Charlotte in Gold Nuggets, my newest novel, had her name years before the English princess was born, but it’s kind of a neat coincidence.) The only exception was Jeannie in Quicksilver to Gold; she has the middle name of a special young lady. You can read more about that in this post:
Writers sometimes come up with little inside jokes that readers may or may not notice. Once I had Charlotte, and gave her two sisters, I named them all after the Bronte sisters, so I got Charlotte, Emily and Anne. It was kind of plausible, since their mother was a former schoolmarm and avid reader.
For the names of my Gold Rush heroes, I amused myself by using a pattern. Each has a first name of a Western movie actor and a last name of a real Western lawman. For example, Duke Masterson is from the Duke (John Wayne) and Bat Masterson. I also have Tom Hickock, Clint Tilghman, and James Garrett. The hero in Gold Nuggets is Henry Reeves, from Henry Fonda and Bass Reeves. (If you haven’t heard of Bass Reeves, he’s a fascinating character in himself—go look him up!)
I’m still making appearances for the new book. Online, you can see more about Gold Nuggets today at Carlene Havel’s blog at