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Blurry Forest

In Fantasy Novels like Archwilde, What's in a Name?

A paragraph printed on dot matrix printer paper from an old draft of the novel Archwilde.
A little snippet from the second draft of Archwilde, circa 1994, printed on dot matrix printer paper, haha.

Here’s a question … when you read books, do you hear a character or place in your mind a certain way, only to find out that the author pronounces it completely differently? I’ve had this problem many times in my life—the most notably was Star Wars: The Truce at Bakura by Kathy Tyers. I debated the pronunciation of Bakura with fellow Star Wars fans for years—well, years before the internet as we know it where we could look this stuff up, anyway. My western New York state accent read it as BACK-oora, but most others I knew pronounced it Ba-KOO-ra. (Interestingly, now that I’ve typed this, I’ve looked it up and it seems there is still confusion over the pronunciation of Bakura, even now, almost thirty years since it’s publication. So huh. The Internet does not know all!)

Anyway, that leads me to Azor Torr. When I’ve had discussions with beta readers of my book, everyone either asked me how I pronounce it, or just assumed it was AEY-zor (like the Azores region in Portugal). Once again, my western New York state accent wins out here—Azor’s name is pronounced: A-zor. (Like the “A” in “at” or “Apple.”)

How did I come up with the name Azor Torr in the first place? Well, keep in mind I wrote the very first draft of this book when I was 15 years old and knew little about storycraft, other than I liked stories and wanted to tell them. A lot of names in those early drafts came from looking around me and picking something in the room. For example, the name Kasdar came from the Empire Strikes Back poster on my bedroom wall. (By this point I’m sure you’re getting what a Star Wars nerd I was back in the day. Waaay before the prequels, waaay before Rey and Kylo and Mando.) I was sitting in my room, scribbling my story in my notebook and realized I needed a name for the country that neighbored Asyeran. I looked around and saw Lawrence Kasdan’s name on the poster and boom—the country was called Kasdan. Years later I decided it was too on the nose and changed the last letter to an “r.” I know, huge change, but it worked. Of course, now every time I have to write the word “Kasdarians” my brain reads it as “Kardashians,” which is annoying because I don’t keep up with the Kardashians AT ALL. (I do keep up with the Cardassians, though. But how I accidentally channeled Andrew Robinson into Lord Moffat even before I had ever seen him in Deep Space Nine is another story.)

I digress. Azor Torr’s name comes from a similar origin as Kasdar. At the time, I was working on a story that was the bones of what would would eventually become Archwilde, and the bad guy was simply named “The Devil King.” He needed a cooler name, but I had’t thought of one yet. I was in church one Sunday, and usually I had a pen with me to draw on church programs while I listened, but that day I must have forgotten a pen and instead I was flipping through the back of my Bible and looking at the pictures and glossary. Somewhere in there I saw the name Azor, and I thought that would make a cool bad guy name. Later on at home, when I was thinking of a last name for him, I looked around my room for something that would work and my eyes fell on some of the books on my shelf. One of them was a Tor Publishing book. So I thought … Azor, Tor … but add another “r.” Boom – Azor Torr was born. Incidentally, the idea for the Isle of Tor came to me many years later, and the mystery of the old crumbling tower and its origins have yet to be revealed …

Anyway, that’s the story of some of the names in my book that my 15-year-old self gifted us all back in the ’90s. Just goes to show you that inspiration is literally everywhere! You just have to look for it. (And apparently, if you need to change a name to make it work better, just add an “r!”)

I’ll share more little tidbits like this here on the blog in posts to come.

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