Introducing YA Author Courtney Vail

What’s In A Name?

When I’m fashioning a character, I don’t just call it a day after a simple sketch with some good qualities and flaws noted, interests and desires, backstory and future intentions. I really dig into how certain factors from the past affect the characters in the present and take it down to how they process information, see the world, perceive others, and I explore why they act, think or speak the way they do.

Take Majesty from Kings & Queens. Originally, I had her name chosen, it just seemed right, and this love triangle idea with her two best friends in my mind. But, I’m not a romance writer, I need more plot and substance. I crave it. With months of nothing else to build on, one night I dreamt I was running for and overheard these two guys planning a church massacre, and I escaped them in this quaint town. Boom. I found my plot and location.

I was planning on writing this plain-up mystery-suspense thing, but when I got into the thick of it, my story and characters surprised me and grew into something totally unexpected and awesome. The story came to embody a living chess match actually, and there are even more royal tie-ins beyond that. So, it bugged me that her name was Majesty. I don’t like things to be that matchy matchy in books. It just comes across as gimmicky and not really cute at all. I considered changing her name, but then I realized, her being pinned with such a funky name all her life actually forced her to choose between taking on antagonists or buckling to them. Instead of shriveling from the onslaught on insults, she rose up and developed a quick wit and a pithy tongue and a desire to win.

All of these things about her, all that might, and also the vulnerability to fail and fall because she shoots so high, would be non-existent is she were an Ashley. I mean, I could certainly write them in, I could create an Ashley like that, but there’d be no true source for that wellspring of strength. It would seem fake and unreal, like I was just trying to make a kick-ass girl because that’s what’s hot right now. Majesty, the noun, is all about prominence, might, and being on top, and Majesty, my character, aspires to all that so she can represent the name she holds.

She has to go all Veronica Mars when she overhears two fellow students planning a church massacre and cops don’t believe her, and her inner strength is what pulls her through the ebbs of betrayal and danger on her way to the truth. So, I really couldn’t rename her. She wouldn’t let me. Because of everything it embodies and fashioned within her, I love her name. It is both her persona and her quest. And I can’t see her as anything else.

Where you can find Courtney:

my site:
book site:
Blog, Gotta Have YA:


Apryl Baker

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