To anybody embarking on a new book I have a word of advice about names - don't ask other people to help. Names are so subjective. You might have a real crush on the name 'Charlotte' but if you ask somebody their opinion they may immediately conjure up a Charlotte who sat next to them at school and was the type to stick her hand up before anybody else when the teacher asked a question. Likewise, 'Aiden' might be exactly the name you'd like to scream in the throes of passion with a broad shouldered gentleman caller, but to me all it means is my driving instructor, who had a nasal voice and a vast repertoire of sighs.
It's not all about personal taste. It's not the same as naming your children. (I called my one and only little human Niamh, setting her up for a lifetime of both spelling it and pronouncing it for people. In case you're interested, you say Neeve.)
You might disagree and call me a control freak (go ahead; I've been called worse) but I don't like it when the name suggests the character. For example,I wouldn't call a seductress Roxanne, and I'd resist the temptation of calling an apple-cheeked old dear Edith. At the same time, I wouldn't make the name so inappropriate that the reader stops to wonder Why are they called that? and holds up the action. So, you won't find a young woman called Edna in my books, nor a pensioner who answers to Zane.
Before I begin to write, I make out a family tree - or more than one, if there's a big cast list. I jot down the dates of birth and the names. Usually, I stick with my first choices;; that amounts to a superstition with me. The protagonist's name is key. You aim for that crucial mix of approachability and idiosyncracy, so when a name just lands on the page, it's wonderful. Until your editor sees it and says Hmm and you know your heroine is about to be renamed.
Best of all is the small, important task of naming pets. I don't seem able to write a book without a dog in it, and cats are known to slink across my pages too. 'Jaffa' was just right for the small, smelly ball of fluff that fell into the garden pond in "These Days of Ours".
When coming up for the other names in that book, I played a game. All the names - except for the forenames of the main characters - had to come from the cast and crew of one of my favourite films, Meet Me in St Louis. If you've never seen it, it's a black and white musical starring a young Judy Garland and directed by her then husband, Vincente Minelli. The marriage was doomed but the movie's a delight. An Edwardian family story set in a marvellous, turreted house, it details one year in a family's life. The incidents are small, but the feelings are large, and it's because I watched that film over and over as a child that my two star crossed lovers in 'These Days of Ours' are called Kate Minelli and Charlie Garland.