French Illusions – How I Chose My Names

When I decided to write a story based on my diary, I knew that I would have to change the names of people and places to protect identities. This was especially true with regard to my host au pair family. Acquiring permission from them was out of the question. Totally out of the question. I mean it. Read my book and you’ll understand. Additionally, over thirty years had passed since I spoke with anyone I’d met in France. I no longer had any contact information.

With this in mind, I researched common French names that might fit my characters. I tried them out and retained the names that were a good fit. A handful required more effort. Choosing a name for my main love interest, Adam, was difficult because it had to be plausible in both Morocco and France. Songais, the name I chose for the town had to sound French, but it couldn’t mimic any others in the region. My biggest challenge, was finding a name for the family’s chateau in France. I knew this term would be repeated over and over again and it had to be perfect. In my hometown of Kirkland, there is an old apartment building just off of State Street. I never thought about it much until one day, during a walk with the dog, I glanced at the building, and it clicked. That’s it, I thought. I’ll call it the Chateau de Mont Clare. I loved the way this name rolled off my tongue. During a rewrite, my editor convinced me to alter the spelling to Château de Montclair, but the pronunciation remained the same. I’ve included a picture below. What do you think, did I make the right choice?

Mont Clare in Kirkland


  1. Michele Luker says:

    Very Interesting…I think it would be very difficult to pick names for characters. There’s so much to think about…personalities, history, family background…to get that perfect name to fit!! Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Bonnie Hilligoss says:

    I really need to read this to find out why asking the family’s permission was not doable!

  3. Very cool! I know I would have trouble picking names. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I’ve read the first 5 chapters and I can already see why you had to choose different names for the family. I did wonder how you tried to change the location and thought someone who owned a chateau in that area would be harder to hide!
    It’s too bad you haven’t stayed in touch with anyone from your au pair days. I still see family members from my au pair days every time I visit France, but not the main family I stayed with.

  5. I am hosting you on my blog and I wasn’t scheduled to review the book, but now I definitely want to! Donna

  6. librarypat says:

    Memoirs are a problem, especially when some things may be less than complimentary. If you just want to give an idea of what an experience was but not expose those involved, the approach you took is best. It frees you up to relate detail and events and embellish a bit if you like. No worry about hurt feelings or liable suites.

  7. Laura McLendon says:

    I haven’t read “French Illusions” yet but I think I will really enjoy it when I do. I love all the different ways you are promoting iy. A very thorough job indeed!!

  8. Dione Sage says:

    What an interesting way to pick your character names! Pretty cool

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