Little did I realise the flurry of response posting the proposed book cover for my new series on Facebook would provoke. Murder in Morocco is the first in a new series I’d planned to call the Aunt Jemima Mysteries. But it seems “Aunt Jemima” conjures up a very different picture for my American friends from the eccentric, go-getting if now elderly adventurer that I envisaged. I hadn’t appreciated that the name is offensive to some people in the US where it can be derogatory label and conjures up images of an obsequiously servile black woman.
I’ve lived with Aunt Jemima for over eight months and it’s not going to be easy to find her a name that doesn’t change her personality entirely. I suggested Jessica but that didn’t go down too well either.
Names are crucial – they reflect personality and changing a lead character at this stage in the game is no easy task. I’ve had lots of suggestions on my Facebook Author page – keep them coming – but it might help to know more about my eponymous heroine.
Jemima is an expert in ancient civilisations and acts as the history lecturer on holiday tours. As in my Fiona Mason Mysteries, each novel will be set in a different country.
Jemima is a vibrant, active seventy-three-year-old (so the name has to fit the era) very different from her three disapproving sisters Maud, Edwina and Constance (names that were pretty old-fashioned even in the early 40s over in sleepy Norfolk). Jemima is the black sheep of the family. Heading for a brilliant academic career, she abandoned everything and ran away with her archaeology lecturer accompanying him on ancient sites all over the world.
Jemima is no conformist – she’s a rebel always ready to challenge authority – so a demur name will not do. I’ve tried Joanna, Alicia, Louisa, Gloria and for a whole day, I toyed with Eleanor, but they just don’t sum up that fierce rebel streak that is right for my character.
To recap – the name has to be:
- of its time (old-fashioned)
- someone happy to kick over the traces
- and it has to scan (3 syllables)
I’m still testing alternative names, but as things stand, despite the adverse comments (including from my alpha-reader, daughter whose judgement I trust implicitly), my gut feeling is that Jemima will become Jessica. If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.
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The Blurb for Murder in Morocco
Down on his luck, Harry is delighted when his Aunt Jemima invites him to accompany her on one of her history tours, though had he known he would find himself embroiled in murder and dealing with drug runners, he might have thought twice.
When one of the tour group is murdered and the victim’s wife is arrested, neither Harry or Aunt Jemima are convinced she is guilty. Harry’s attempts to investigate land him in trouble and only with Aunt Jemima’s help can he avoid arrest himself.