“How do you come up with the names?”

That’s what my wonderful mother-in-law Sophie always wants to know. “Dulcie and Pru, and now Care? Tara? Where do they come from?”

“I’m not sure,” I’ve told her. And she shakes her head in wonder. “I make them up,” I say. Although she is now in nursing care and her eyesight is very poor, Sophie has read all of my books – along with most of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s – and so I try to answer all of her questions, even when I don’t have good answers.

Of course, there is a little more to it than what I’ve said: My first series, which began with MEW IS FOR MURDER introduced a protagonist named Theda Krakow, because both I and my mother, Iris, were given rather fanciful names that had no connection to our Jewish immigrant surnames (Horowitz, for her, and Simon, for me). Theda, she explains, was named for the silent film star – even though her family had gotten its name on Ellis Island when it arrived from Poland. The same logic was behind Dulcie – aka Dulcinea Schwartz – in  SHADES OF GREY. And Pru Marlowe, of course, is a mashup of noir and, I hope, irony: Pru is anything but prudent. Or prudish, come to think of it. As for Care? Well, I’m not entirely sure. And as Blackie says, in THE NINTH LIFE, that is not his name…

But even when I explain this, she wants more. Sophie, of course, means wisdom, and so my inquiring mother-in-law always wants to know more. And so this weekend, which is not only mother’s day but her 102nd birthday, when I deliver a special (very large print) version of FEAR ON FOUR PAWS, I will try to answer as many questions as possible.

Happy birthday, Sophie. Happy Mother’s Day, everyone! Keep on reading!