July 29, 2009


by Stephen Bly

Most folks get the privilege of naming their own kids. Novelists have the honor of creating handles for a whole slew of characters in each story he or she tells. Monikers for protagonists and villains usually receive the most attention.

It all started for me with Stuart Brannon, one of my first heroes. Actually, Sandy Thompson was the very first in The Land Tamers, but Stuart’s the most mentioned and remembered in the correspondence I receive. My wife pointed out about Book #3 of the Stuart Brannon series that I used my own initials for this choice, and the character seemed an awful lot like me. Maybe that’s a typical Freudian slip for many writers, but I don’t have any data to back that up. Later, when I needed a main male character for my contemporary series, The Austin-Stoner Files, I tried to make him very different from Stuart Brannon. So, I reversed the initials and called him Brady Stoner.

Now, before I began writing the Code of the West Series, I searched for something unique to call the central character, who didn’t happen to start out in the plot to be the typical hero type. Again, I commenced with my initials. But I dipped one letter lower in the alphabet for a ‘T’ for the first name. . .and raised one letter higher to choose an ‘A’ for his last name. T. A. I liked that. My granddad’s name was Theo and my dad’s was Arthur (my middle name). So, I kept it in the family…sorta.

I embarked on the search.

No problem. One of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew (Peter’s brother), is a favorite of mine. I played with that as a last name. Then, I wanted a snappy first name, easy to type, but kinda different. For some reason, Tap came to mind. That seemed like a nickname. Short for what? After some brainstorming, I settled on Tapadera. Tapadera Andrews. Sounded good to me.

But how’d I conjure up Tapadera?

A tapadera’s a stirrup cover. It’s a wedge shaped piece of leather that covers the stirrup front and sides, but opens in the back. Made from heavy cow hide, on occasion it’s reinforced by a wooden frame. Cowboys and cowgirls use them in brush country to protect their feet. In California they’re called tapaderos or tapadereos in Spanish. Sometimes that’s shortened to taps.

Now you know a bit behind my names.

Readers often ask me how I came up with Oliole Fontenot in the Heroines of the Golden West Series. Ah, but that’s a whole nother story.

On a brushy trail in north-central Idaho,



Coming October 2009! Creede of Old Montana

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Jenny said...

One of my favorite reasons for reading your novels, Stephen, is to see what unique character names you come up with.

I remember not long after your Homestead series came out, I had just bought my then 2 1/2 year old daughter a small stuffed leopard. I thought we should name it after your character Leppy Verdue, and she agreed. Unfortunately with her two year old's pronunciation it came out as 'Leopardy Doo', and that's the name that stuck. *sigh*

Faith Ward said...

Names are very important. Wether we choose to pass down a family name or create a new one it is something that a person is stuck with (unless they legally change it) the rest of their life.

As a child, I didn't like the name "Faith" because it wasn't a popular name (I liked the name "Stacy" or "Laura") but later I learned that I had went a few days without a name because my parents couldn't agree. Mom liked Jodie (but I didn't look like a Jodie to her) an aunt wanted them to name me Lucy after my faternal grandmother; mom said NO. Long story short, a family member had called the hosp. to congratulate my parents and they were calling from "Faith", South Dakota. Mom said it was perfect b/c my father had been gravely ill and during this time of his illness, mom found out she was expecting me and believed that I was God's sign that dad would be alright. He'll be 65 in Sept. That's been 40 yrs. ago.
I love my name now and I use it to encourage others. I've had people say that my name fits me very well.
I tease my parents that they should have named me "Grace" as I'm very clutzy. LOL.

Stephen and Janet Bly said...

Jenny & Faith: Loved both of your stories. Thank you so much for sharing them.
On the trail,

Abi said...

Nice post. Thanks for sharing it.

Connie Sue said...

I always love hearing how you come up with the names for these people who become "like family"as we read and get to know them. Names are important to us...as they are part of our identity. (Just as "Connie Sue" helps me feel like "me"). You have a gift for aptly naming your characters, Steve. THey always "fit" and they settle in with each other (the name and the character). Keep up giving us new people to get to know! Connie Sue

Stephen and Janet Bly said...

Thanks for all the comments! Appreciate your stopping by to add a post.
On the trail, Steve