Several friends have asked how I came up with my character names. I was not entirely consistent in my naming approach for all the characters, but I endeavored to make the names of most of the Gennebri characters sound at least vaguely Hebraic. Most of the place names in Gennebar were chosen with the same idea in mind. Similarly, the names of most of the Drenarian characters sound approximately Roman, but I even directly appropriated a couple of historically significant Roman names and re-purposed them. Beyond that, I deliberately made many of the Gennebri names end with an “l” sound, (as in Arol, Lemuel, Dimacielle, Zemakiel, etc.), so as to lend them a kind of group consistency, as one might expect from the names in an actual real world culture. Of course, some Gennebri characters’ names parallel actual biblical names in a recognizable way (e.g., Meshnab – Moses, Methasomol – Methuselah, Daviel – David, Gamleol – Gamaliel, etc.), but a few were special.
For example, the Gennebri heroine, Senasha, departs from the pattern. I named her in honor of a real life Holocaust heroine, Hannah Szenes (pronounced something like: “senesh”):
Apart from their great courage and tenacity, Senasha’s story and Szenes’s story are quite different. Yet both stories are tragic in their own ways. Szenes lost her life fighting evil, whereas Senasha lost many whom she loved, including two devoted husbands.
The kozem, Bernarro, is another special case. (“Kozem” is Hebrew for “wizard,” just incidentally.) I deliberately did not make him a Gennebri, as Jewish culture of the period of the book (roughly, the first century CE) could never have produced a person with his advanced scientific sensibilities. Bernarro is essentially my spokesperson in the novel who provides a modern rationalist perspective on the faith-obsessed, pre-scientific world of the novel. My middle name is Bruce, which is after my uncle Bernard (who was called “Buddy” within the family). My Uncle Buddy was a career US Army officer who was KIA right around the end of the Korean War. (Most American Jews have both a Hebrew name, which is used for religious purposes, as well as a secular name for all other purposes. Hebrew names may match that of the eponymous ancestor exactly, but the secular name often only matches in the first letter – or in the first sound, if there is no exactly analogous letter in the English alphabet. That’s how Bernard became Bruce.) So Bernarro is related to my own middle name. Bernarro represents my ideals and my philosophy.
The name of Arol’s best friend Zorn is another exception. I just liked the sound of it. I subsequently discovered that there is a river in Germany called the Zorn, after which an avenue in Louisville, KY, where my daughter lives, is named. As one might imagine, I was not exactly pleased when Hollywood came out with an animated sitcom adventure series and called it “Son of Zorn,” recently. But I had been living with the name Zorn for over four years by then, and I was not about to change it.
The name of my main character, Arol, also has an interesting association with it. But I can’t reveal what that is yet without revealing some of the plot of parts II and III. So stay tuned.