Guest Blog: Scarlett Valentine

Historical Research and Character Names by Scarlett Valentine

First let me say, thanks for letting me visit today. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks. And thanks for asking me to talk about two of the things I really enjoy about the writing process — naming characters and historical research.

I’ve always had a ‘thing’ for names. The more unusual they are, the more I like them. One of the most important parts of plotting stories, at least for me, is having just the right character names. Historicals demand dated names and the best place to find them is to look at historical documents and texts. Sometimes, names also come from a person’s description. One such story is about an Irish boy called Luan who entered into monastic life. When he went to have his tonsure shaved, the cleric who did the barbering said, “Fair (fionn) is the hair (barra, meaning crop) of Luan.” Another cleric replied, “Let this be his name.” Over the centuries, Fionn Barra became Finbarr.

It’s stuff like this I find fascinating. And it’s all part of the historical research that goes into plotting a story. You wouldn’t want to name a 12 century hero Dweezil since the name didn’t come into existence until the 20th century. However, it sounds like a wholly appropriate name for a 25th century hero, doesn’t it?

Let’s do a little research on the name Bedwyr from Awakening—

The name Bedwyr can be found in old Welsh texts, some of the oldest references dating back to the 5thth century. But it was around the 9th century when the name Bedwyr Bedrydant, or Bedwyr of the Perfect Sinews for his lanky disposition, showed up in legendary tales. Bedwyr, along with the likes of Cei (Kay), Ywain (Ewain/Owain), and Erec, was a legendary Knight of the Round Table—Bedwyr being the Welsh version of Bedevire!

Sir Bedevire was not only a hero in his own right, but he was the only Round Table Knight who knew where King Arthur was buried. The term grave-knower has become synonymous with the name Bedwyr—literally, knower of Arthur’s grave.

When I first saw the name and read the meaning behind it, I instantly thought, “This is my hero.” He’s his king’s right hand man, a mighty warrior, and the ultimate tortured hero. He’s a grave-knower, not of Arthur’s grave, but because he’s the most feared man in all Wales due to his prowess on the battlefield—kill or be killed, and he’s not ready to die.

Further research revealed things like dynastic marriages, families at war and a string of bastard children to King Owain’s credit—twenty-on documented children by two wives and a handful of concubines. Historians assume there are probably many more children by this king, so it wasn’t unreasonable that my Bedwyr could have been one of them.

Another fascinating fact I learned why researching—Owain gave his sister, Susanna, to Madog ap Maredudd, Prince of Powys in 1130 as part of a dynastic marriage. When they went to war again in 1149, it was as brothers-in-law as much as political opponents. But for nineteen years, Susanna had helped keep the peace between the two men.

Researching history can dig up some very interesting facts, indeed. So next time you’re looking for plot elements for your story, don your archaeologists cap and grab a trowel because your next plot element could be just under the surface.

Thanks for stopping by to meet me and learn a little bit about Awakening and Bedwyr. I’d love to hear some of your stories—what’s the most unusual name you’ve ever come across and what does it mean?

~ Scarlett

“What’s a little bondage between friends?”

Available now – Awakening, book one of The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter series


AwakeningYsbail of Ellesmere is a pawn in her guardian’s war. For decades there has been unrest between the marcher lords and Owain Gwynedd ap Gruffydd, King of Gwynedd. The most recent war had been the bloodiest she could remember in her eighteen years. Madog ap Maredudd, Prince of Powys, and his allies lost untold numbers of men at the hands of Owain’s soldiers. When a settlement of truce is presented to Madog, it’s at Ysbail’s expense. She is to marry Bedwyr ap Owain, one of King Owain’s bastard sons, and his most notorious henchman. If all the rumors and stories she’s heard are true, she knows her marriage will be rife with horror and fear.

Since proving himself worthy with his sword, Bedwyr fights at his king’s side. He’s shed oceans of blood and sent untold numbers of men to their graves. He’s become what his name foretold—the grave-knower. He’s afraid of nothing, least of all death. All men fear him, including those who fight at his side, and sometimes even his own king. Terror of him lives within women’s hearts; only the bravest of whores accept him into their beds. And children weave their own tales of the monster they hear him to be, embellishing the details to their own gruesome degrees.

When King Owain informs Bedwyr that he’s to marry Ysbail of Ellesmere as part of a peace settlement with Madog, Bedwyr is furious. A man such as Bedwyr can only survive on the battlefield. For without love, hatred will send a man like him to the edge of insanity. Then push him over. But when Bedwyr sees Ysbail for the first time, blood-thirst turns to blood-lust, and he vows to show her that she should have no fear of him.


Scarlett Valentine is the alter ego of award-winning romance author, Kemberlee Shortland. Together they write Erotomance — Erotic Romance.

Originally from Northern California, Scarlett has spent the last fourteen years living in Ireland. She’s traveled extensively through Ireland and Wales. When she’s not writing, she can often be found castle hunting.

Scarlett’s stories cross subgenres to explore hetero, gay and bisexual relationships in a series of stories that include time periods from historicals and contemporaries, futuristics and science fiction, paranormal and suspense, and more.

Awakening is the first book in The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter series and is available 2 November 2011 though Tirgearr Publishing.

COMMENT TO WIN! Scarlett is giving away a $25 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour, plus she will occasionally give “surprise” gifts to other commenters on the tour. The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The other tour dates can be found here:

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  1. Mary Preston says

    You promised a great post about names & you certainly delivered. The origins of names is fascinating. I’m still laughing over an historical character being named Dweezil. Quelle Horreur!


  2. says

    Hi Mary,

    I know. I love the name Dweezil. Frank must have been on the good stuff to come up with that one . . . and Moon Unit! But those names have been entered into the kids names database for all time now, and fodder for warped writers 😉

  3. Karen H in NC says

    Great post today Scarlett. Love the process of naming the characters. Now I know it’s not just drawing a name out of the hat! And Frank probably was on some very good stuff when he named his children…but with a last name like Zappa, what could we expect? Wonder where he got that from?

    While we’re on the subject of names, I recently noticed the same name (Tarquinn) being used by 2 different authors. One book is out now and the other is yet to be released. I’ve also seen same surname and estate/manor names being used by different authors at relatively the same time. I wonder if these authors were using the same research material to come up with these names?

  4. says

    Hi Karen,

    I can’t speak for other authors, but it does sound suspect that two books by two different authors have the same hero name and/or same setting. There’s so much history out there to chose from. The reason I chose the time period I did is that I noticed a lot of stories are set during Llywellyn the Great’s time. He’s a huge hero in Welsh history . . . like William Wallace in Scotland, or Robert the Bruce, or like Brian Boru or Michael Collins in Ireland. It’s fun to step back a pace or two, or go forward, to see what history is there to set a story in. Which is one reason why I chose Llywellyn the Great’s grandfather and the time of the dynastic marriage between Owain’s sister and the Prince of Powys. That was in 1130 so I upped the period a little to 1149 when those two rulers had established themselves.

    Tarquinn, or more commonly Tarquin, is a very old name dating back to the mid 5th century. It’s unusual so fodder for modern writers, but it’s also so unusual that when one author uses it, it kind of becomes there name, if you know what I mean.

    Some character names and setting locations are becoming the Kleenex, Q-Tips and Coke of fiction. It’s kind of like you can’t write a scene where a woman is in delivery and refusing to have her baby until the father marries the woman without thinking of Leathal Weapon and Mel Gibson. Similarly, you can’t think about a medieval Scottish Highlander living in a castle of Christopher Lambert, the Highlander movie and Eilan Donan Castle. And others. So when you hear names like Tarquin(n) you think, “Oh, that’s Anna Campbell’s hero in My Reckless Surrender.” But see Tarquin in another story and you might think, “Anna Campbell used that name for her hero. This other author must be copying her. The name is so unusual.”

    Which is another reason I chose Bedwyr for my hero in Awakening. Not just because of the translation to a Round Table knight and what the name has come to know (grave-knower) but because no one else had used it yet. It will stroke my ego if I start seeing more people use it 😉

    On a similar subject, I remember being in the bookstore years ago and looking through the romances for something to read. I walked along the aisle and saw several novels faced out to attract readers. There may have been 6-7 books faced out at eye level. THREE Of them had Eilean Donan Castle on the cover. Two of them were same angle photos that had a strong resemblance to an iconic view from The Highlander movie (the original) and the other was from another angle. All three books were from different publishers. I know publishers like Harlequin are notorious for reusing covers every few years, but these were all brand new releases. I struck me so funny because of all the castles in Scotland, almost every time, cover artists focus on Eilean Donan.

    I’ve really appreciated the variety of covers in recent years now that digital is becoming so popular, but I’m also starting to see the same hero used on a majority of cover art (Jimmy Thomas) or the same stock images from online photography sellers. Digital covers still retain their individuality, but I can see the tide changing.

    Thanks for your comment. They’re always interesting!

  5. Chelsea B. says

    When I first started reading romance I came across the name Lucian– I thought it was so odd and unique. Now that I read more I’ve discovered that the name Lucian in the romance world is like Jessica in the real world, haha 🙂 Not that I’m complaining– I absolutely adore the name!


  6. latisha depoortere says

    Great post thank you what a fun blog tour! This sounds like a really great book would love to read it thanks for sharing!
    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  7. says

    Hey Chelsea,
    I’m just checking messages to be sure everyone’s on the list for the draw and saw I missed your post. I’m so sorry!

    I like the name Lucian too. It reminds me of a romance set in New Orleans and a southern drawl 🙂 Maybe a few beignets and some chickory coffee!