Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Book Rant: Linger Name Change

In case you didn't know, Linger is the sequel to Shiver, both by the wonderful Maggie Stiefvater. And, again, if you didn't know (why are you so out of the loop?) I loved Shiver. When I read about this on Alex and Lauren's blog, A Flight of Minds, I was outraged. Confused. Very, very angry. It's...well, read this for yourself, it was written by Maggie herself:

"The more observant of my readers on my Livejournal blog have noticed that the main character from SHIVER has changed names. This is sort of eerie, since I hadn't realized I'd babbled about them enough to realize the names weren't the same, but the fact is, it's true. Sam Roth (which is, for the record, the best name ever) the character from SHIVER who becomes a wolf for the winter, is now Lee Spence.

That sentence, my friends, is the result of 16 hours of baby name book searching, thousands of calories of cookie dough consumption, silent raging, not silent raging, denial, googling, and finally, acceptance.

Because this agony is something that other authors will probably have to go through and because it gives me an excuse to look at a photo of Lee Pace, I'm going to tell my sordid little naming story here.

So. This all started way back when my werewolf story was only a twinkle in my eye. I'd had the dream that sort of laid down the premise, but only two of the characters (neither of them main characters) came with names in the dream. (And one of the two names in the dream was "Robert de Niro" so I had to change it anyway). I can't start writing a novel until I have the Perfect Names for my main characters, so I was in the brainstorming phase. I wanted something sort of timeless, soft-sounding, and inherently sad and emotastic. Which brought me to Sam, partially because of the way that Meg Ryan said, "Oh, Sam," in Addicted to Love, after she's torn his heart into little tiny pieces and feels bad about it, but is stuck in the floor, so she can't do anything but watch from afar and say:

"Oh, Sam."

I just thought . . . whooo, shivers. I imagined the scene where Grace, the other main character, first sees him as a person after years of obsessing over him as a wolf. And when she asks his name, he says, "Sam." And I knew that was it.

Except it wasn't. Because there is this author y'all may have heard of, Stephenie Meyer, who apparently has also written about werewolves. Who knew?That's sarcasm.

Anyway. So apparently, she also had a wolf character named Sam. Who knew?

That's not sarcasm.

I'd read TWILIGHT, but it's been a few years, so I'd completely forgotten that there was a werewolf named Sam in it. And my editors had too. And my crit partners. And basically all of the folks that had worked on the novel since last fall when I first began writing it. But not someone at the Scholastic sales meeting. And not, my editors reasoned (once they had this brought to their attention), the hoards of passionate TWILIGHT fans who had the demographics of every TWILIGHT character stenciled onto their arms with glittery pink ink. Sorry, sparkly. Sparkly pink ink. So at the very end of the editing process, after I'd lived with my characters as Sam and Grace my editors said that "Sam" had to go.

I sputtered and begged and pleaded and finally googled "sam werewolf," where I was greeted by one gagillion hits to Team Jacob and Sam Uley, The First Werewolf Named Sam. And I hung my sad head in defeat, because my editors were right, as they often are. Which meant that my favorite bit of dialog in the entire novel had to completely change:

"Grace,” I said, very softly. “Say something.”
“Sam,” she said, and I crushed her to me.

This was when the silent raging began. Because I knew I had to do something, but I didn't want to. I still had a sequel to write, after all, and I was going to have to live with a not-Sam for another 95,000 words. It wasn't just SHIVER that was riding on this name change, it was the fate of the sequel, LINGER (probably LINGER), as well, and probably my entire sanity as well. My critique partner, Tessa Gratton, spent about 8 hours IMing me back and forth, sifting through hundreds of names, looking for the perfect replacement that would ellicit the same emotional response in me as "Sam."

The catalog copy deadline was, I should add, bearing down on us at this moment, giving us about two days to come up with a replacement. At that point, I think my mood was best classified as "angry/ morose drunk."

Examples of angry/morose drunk exchanges? This is sort of a montage of conversations that occured on Day Two of the Great Name Debacle.

DAVID (editor) to me and ABBY (other editor): How about Daniel? I've always been partial to Daniel.

ABBY to me and DAVID: Daniel is nice.

ME to TESSA: Daniel! Daniel!? Why do they keep saying Daniel to me in my hour of need? Have they not heard Elton John?

TESSA: There, there. How about Jonah? It sounds emotastic.

ME to my DAD: I need something other than Sam, even though Sam is the most perfect name invented.

DAD: Why, again? Because there's this other sampire in TWILIGHT?

ME: Werewolf.

DAD: But 'sampire' is funnier. How about Jack?

ME: Why was I ever born?

Eventually, I really buckled down, hit the stacks, and finally came back to the first name that had occured to me at the beginning of the Great Name Debacle: Lee. It was soft, reminded me of blue jeans, inherently emotastic, and moreover, was the name of the actor who I think of when I think of what Sam/ Lee looks like: Lee Pace. (cue audience reaction: awwww). So now I had Lee Roth. Like Kate Winslet's character at the end of Titanic, I was sad, but triumphant. I told my art critique partners about the name change.

One of them, my friend Nicole, said, "um, Maggie, have you, um, googled 'Lee Roth'?"

I did.

Those of you who were born slightly before me will probably already know what I found. Sigh. So, with a nod to irritating rockers who have ruined a generation of fictional "Roths", I changed his last name to Spence.

So there you have it. The story of how Sam Roth became Lee Spence and everyone lived happily ever after. And the other day, I actually said "Lee and Grace" all by myself, without accidentally saying "Sa-Lee" first. So maybe there is hope for me yet. "

NO! There may be hope for Maggie, but there is absolutely no hope for me. First of all, who cares if there's a Sam in The Twilight Saga who just so happens to be a werewolf? Not me. I honestly hadn't even thought about that while reading Shiver. I don't understand why her editors are making her change her name. I could sorta understand if she was still writing Shiver...but it's already published. And they're not going to republish it- pull each book off the shelves and replace it with the "Lee Spence" version, are they? They just expect us to be able to transition like that?

Secondly, I don't love Lee Spence, I love Sam Roth. They are different people. Why? Because they have different names, therefore they are different people. I have no idea if I will be able to change this frame of mind. Ever. The whole situation is...inconceivable. (Holy crap, I spelled that right!) Maybe when I get Linger I can buy my own copy and scribble out Lee and write may take's an interesting idea though....

I am a Twilight fan. It is my favorite series. But, the whole idea that they're changing the name of a main character just because fans are that obsessive is ridiculous. They should just get it in their head that coincidences happen, and that not everybody is copy-catting Stephenie Meyer.

Oh, and by the way, I just typed in "werewolf Sam" on Google, and nothing for Twilight came up. There was True Blood, there was Shiver, there was no Twilight (on the first page, at least).

Sigh. Now I'm sad.

Edit: Wow, I feel like a nerd. OK, after I posted this it was brought to my attention that Sam Roth is here to stay. Maggie posted what you just read above on her blog, and then left a comment of the same post saying Sam is Sam again. See it for yourself here. Thanks to Rerebs from Count Rebula's Concepts & Comments. Like I said, I feel like a nerd.

...But it's still stupid to even think of doing that.


  1. such an interesting post Jessica! I've just discovered Shiver and had not heard of this controversy. Hopefully I wont find it too distracting when I get to Linger.

  2. How weird. I can understand her editors making her change the name if Shiver hadn't been published yet, but why on EARTH would they make her change it now, when it's been out for over a month?

    I don't really care about the name change itself, though. I sort of despise both Sam and Lee as guy names, anyway =oP

  3. Seriously??? I don't like the name change at all! It's SAM and Grace. Ug!

  4. I was so mad when I read about this. It's a terrible decision on the part of the publisher. It's insulting to readers (it implies that we're too stupid to differentiate between two characters with the same name), it's confusing to new readers ("Lee? Who the heck is Lee? The was no Lee in the first book!"), and it sends the message to authors that Twilight is the standard to which every book should be measured. I feel so bad for Maggie, and for any future author who gets "Meyer-smacked".

    "I'm sorry, young author, but your character can't have a father. Why not? Because Bella Swan had a father. Sure... fathers exist in real life, but if you give your character a father, readers will confuse her with Bella. Sorry."

    On the upside, I guess the current copies of Shiver that are in the stores will end up being collector's editions.

  5. That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of and I agree it is insulting to readers. Lots of books from similar genres have similar if not the same names. Should I change my name just because a co-worker has the same name as me?

  6. You've GOT to be kidding me. This is just crazy! Why make her change it when the book has already been published. And who cares it there is a character named Sam in Twilight, they are completely different. Wow, I just can't believe that.


  7. I'm sorry but that's insane. I can understand them changing it before Shiver came out but not after. That is beyond weird!


    I just found this, if you read the comments on the post Maggie says that Sam is here to stay so it doesn't look like there will be a change

  9. Yay, I just read the comment above. That would be awful to change a character name just because of another book...

  10. Oh, cool, thanks Rerebs! Now I kinda feel like an idiot, but at least me and my mom can calm down. I still find it pretty stupid that they even considered making her do that, but it's all in the past now. :)

  11. I was pretty mad too that they were considering it, Sam just wouldn't be Sam otherwise. I'm so glad they didn't go through with it

  12. JessSecret: *highfive* for bringing this to our attention.
    Rebrebs: *highfive* for saving the day

    I'm soooooo glad Twilight Sam didn't interfere with Maggie's Sam.

  13. That is so stupid but thank god they're not changing it. How idiotic! As if every character in literature has to have a unique name?? Ergh.

    Jess, I have an award for you here :) -

  14. I enjoy this post very much. Its really very interesting. thanks for this nice update.

  15. That is so weird! I'm glad they aren't changing it as well -- the name just grows to suit the character after you've read a book. Sheesh!


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