Unfortunately, completion of Book Two has been delayed, so I thought I’d give you a few morsels to chew on until it comes out. For instance, what goes into a character’s name? Quite a bit, actually. As complex and multi-layered a novel as “Season of the Serpent” is, you would be correct in thinking character names were not selected randomly. Some of these subtle name choices may have gone unnoticed, even by the most observant reader. So allow me to pull back the curtain a little.
It should come as no surprise “The Wizard of Oz” might be a prominent reference. I didn’t want to use anything too obvious, such as “Gale.” Let’s take a closer look at the names of Paul’s college friends: Jon Cates, Lucas Crowe, and Mark Tinsley.
With all three name linked together, you can now see the reference to the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and The Tin Man. Furthermore, their names actually define their character traits. Jon Cates (the cat) is the cowardly conformist with a slight stutter who is afraid to talk to girls. Lucas Crowe (the scarecrow) is the deflecting class clown who avoids thinking about anything too serious, such as nuclear war. And Mark Tinsley (Paul’s Tin Man cousin) is the rigid Born Again Christian who has suppressed his emotions and sexuality. It’s telling that Paul’s mother’s maiden name is also Tinsley – she is the epitome of emotional repression.
Of course, the symbolism doesn’t end with their last names. Let’s take another look at their first names: Mark, Lucas, Jon – references to the New Testament Gospels. Of course, this wasn’t originally intentional on my part, should you try to infer something from this. Two of the names were already chosen when I noticed the coincidence, so I changed the third to complete the pattern. Biblical names were rather common for college boys in the 80’s; our parents named us in the 60’s.
Then, of course, there is Paul who is named after Paul Atredies, the protagonist of “Dune,” but also the Biblical Gospel writer Paul. His last name,Venturi, is a pretty obvious reference to the ‘Adventure’ he is about to have.
A’Meric was originally spelled Am’Eric, as in “I am Eric,” because he is a more realized character than his host, Eric Ratkovich. I had a lot of fun with his name, particularly with the fact that his name references “America.” A’Meric is very much “American” in spirit, for both the good and the bad.
Director Dar’Winn, or course, is a reference to Charles Darwin. The character was originally conceived as male, as most all of the characters were. I wanted more female energy, more female characters, so I changed Dar’Winn’s sex, and then the character came alive as a glamorous Hollywood icon. The image I have of her is Catherine Deneuve from the 80’s film “The Hunger.” Of course, some people have pointed out Hillary Clinton as a possible model, which is coincidental, but not far off. Around the time I made Director Dar’Winn female, Hillary was just beginning her run for President in 2008.
All the names of Yin’Dru’s Directors have a specific reference and meaning, however, I don’t wish to spoil the surprise that unfolds in Book Two. I was initially worried that the “Dar” (Divinely Appointed Regent) in front of each Director’s name might be too confusing, that readers would have a hard time telling them apart. Hopefully, I succeeded in giving them each a unique personality so that any confusion is minimized. And, of course, the ‘Dar’ is a nod to Star Wars, or rather Darth Vader.
Lastly, Angra Mainyu and Ahura Mazda are the real names of competing deities in ancient Persian Zoroastrianism, the forerunner of Apocalyptic mythology, foretelling the final battle of Good verses Evil, that many scholars believe greatly influenced early Judeo-Christian beliefs. Yin’Dru and Yang’Ash represent, of course, the Chinese Yin and Yang. I simply added “Asha” and “Druj” from Zoroastrianism which represent another spiritual system of duality, thought more rigidly black & white. Of course, the whole point of the book is that nothing is really as simple as Black and White.