About That Name

My signed first edition of To Say Nothing of the Dog.
My signed first edition of To Say Nothing of the Dog.

Choosing to use a pen name for my writing was a no-brainer for me. Years ago, a friend pointed out one advantage to using a pen name (other than keeping your public and private personas separate) was when you get bad reviews. It’s easier to have a thick skin if someone were to say “Kivrin Wilson sucks!” than if they used my real name.

The main thing for me, though, is that I have a very Norwegian first name that no English speakers know how to pronounce. To make things worse, my married last name is also a female first name, so for the past eighteen years I’ve had people getting my name backwards on an almost daily basis. Did I need that aggravation from readers? No, I did not!

I’ve had readers who think Kivrin is an Irish name. Others think it’s Norwegian, for obvious reasons–plus I suppose it does have a Nordic sound to it.

That’s not where it’s from, though!

It’s from a book.

I’ve loved the name since I read Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. My introduction to Willis came when a dear friend recommended that I read the sequel to Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, and to this day that is my all-time favorite novel. Time travel, history, laugh-out-loud humor, mystery, smart writing, an immersive and imaginative story world, and a thrilling plot twist at the end–and there’s even some romance. I love this book so much that when my husband gave me a signed first-edition of it for my birthday last year, there was no doubt it was one of the best gifts he’s ever given me.

Doomsday BookNaturally, after finishing To Say Nothing of the Dog, I wanted to read more. So I picked up the first book in Willis’s time travel series. Now, knowing that in this one the characters travel back to the time of the Black Death, I expected this to not be anything like the delightful romp that is To Say Nothing of the Dog. What I did not expect was such a bleak, dark, and gripping tale of disease and human mortality. The impact this book had on me can be summarized by this quote from the beginning of the third part of the novel.

“Buried with my own hands five of my children in a single grave… No bells. No tears. This is the end of the world.” –Agniola di Tura, Siena, 1347

This quote alone gave me goosebumps.

The main character’s name in Doomsday Book is Kivrin. I’m pretty sure Willis made the name up (this page agrees with me) and that it’s meant as a diminutive of Katherine. Regardless, I love the name. Obviously. 🙂

As for the last name, Wilson, I chose that simply because it rhymes with my maiden name.

So that’s the story of my pen name. And I can’t recommend these books enough! At the moment, I’m eagerly awaiting Willis’s first  release in years: Crosstalk A new romantic comedy from Connie Willis? Yes, please!


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