What’s In A Name?
I’m going to go a lot more personal today than I have in the past. There’s now a mere weekend between us and the release of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant, and I thought I’d take a moment to talk about the name that’s on the front cover: Kate McIntyre.
It ‘s not my name. Not the one that appears on my passport or birth certificate or driver’s license. But what is a name, really? Something we inherit combined with something we’ve given. And there’s value to be found in the names we choose for ourselves, whether it’s shortening my given name, Kathryn, into something that suits me better, or taking on a completely different surname.
Make no mistake: Kate McIntyre is a poor choice for a pen name, at least from the point of view of marketing and branding. There’s an English anchorwoman with the name, and at least one very successful real estate agent is pretty annoyed that I’m taking a chomp out of her Google rankings. There are a lot of other names I could have taken as my own that would give me no competition in the vicious, fanged world that is internet publicity. But I wanted this name, and I’d like to get personal and talk about why.
Sometimes, I’ll see a photograph of my mother as a teenager. My first thought is always — “Hm, how old was I in this? I don’t remember taking it.” Suffice to say, we look very much alike. My jolly maternal grandfather held me when I was born and jokingly told my father than the only physical resemblance we could have had was if I was a boy. McIntyre is my mother’s maiden name, and I’ve always felt like a part of that clan. We look alike, we value the same things, and we’ve always just immediately fallen into a rhythm with each other when we’re all together.
In the back of my mine, I always thought I might use McIntyre as a pen name, for all of these reasons, but it wasn’t until shortly before I finished my first book that I decided for sure.
In the spring of 2011, my Uncle Steve was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, and for the next two years my life completely changed. My uncle, always uncomfortable getting too close, moved in and really became part of the family. He was a constant presence in my life, encouraging, big-hearted, and wonderful. He joked and loved and occasionally ate all the cookies in the house in the middle of the night like a true McIntyre. He dragged presents under the Christmas tree in the dark of Christmas Eve, all marked “From Santa,” so he wouldn’t have to admit that he bought them for us — plausible deniability, you know. He brought an entire tank of helium and about a million balloons for my mum’s birthday; he and my sister and I spent the whole morning blowing them up, singing along at the top of our lungs to Wild Ones by Flo Rida ft Sia, truly beautiful music that once again says so much about my music tastes. The three of us dancing about, surrounded by an entire civilization of balloons, is one of my best memories, and it’s the story I told him while he was dying and I was holding his hand. He had fought so hard, living longer than anyone thought possible until the day he passed in my living room, smiling faintly when I reminded him about Wild Ones.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpOR_HuHRNs&w=560&h=315](not the kind of song that usually moves you to actual tears every time you hear it)
If not for his cancer, Uncle Steve probably would have continued to hold himself apart from us. He deserved better than pain and a young death, but I’m so grateful for the time that he had together as a result of it.
I wrote most of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant while he was living with us, and he died a few months before I found Caitlin and my career really started. He was always asking about the process and was so proud of me. It breaks my heart a little that he isn’t going to be there Monday when my book hits shelves. He would have wanted to see it through to the end, and he’s always in my thoughts.
I’ve always thought of myself as a McIntyre, but because of the system we live in, I’ve never been able to claim ownership of that name that’s rightfully as much mine as the one on my bank account. Despite what a bad move, business-wise, it was to take Kate McIntyre as the name I shared my work with the world with, I don’t regret it. It’s a tribute, not only to Uncle Steve, but to my mother and my other uncles and my cousins and my sister and all the McIntyres, either by name and by blood. My birth name will be on my birth certificate and on my tombstone. It just seemed right to leave something with that other name, even if it’s just some fantasy murder mysteries.