Kristen Lippert-Martin discusses: What’s in a Name?

September 26, 2014 Author Feature, Giveaway, Guest Post 8

Author, Kristen Lippert-Martin, joins us today to talk about her book TABULA RASA. Kat recently read and reviewed it as well so be sure to check that out and enter the giveway below.

tabula rasa

Kat’s Review of Tabula Rasa

Now lets hear from Kristen below! and you can see her next blog tour stop tomorrow at Adventures in YA Publishing


What’s In a Name?

One of the first jobs I had after college was working for a news magazine. There were a bunch of us young ‘uns there, and naturally we did most of the grunt work because we were the lowest on the totem pole.

Also at the magazine was this woman—let’s call her “Barb.”

Barb was the finance manager maybe? Money person? I don’t know what her official title was or what she did besides consistently show up late and take long lunches. She’d worked in the office forever, and I have no idea what her deal was, but if crazy were measured in ice cream scoops, she was that giant monster sundae that you get for free if you can eat the whole thing in one sitting.

One small way that her crazy manifested itself was that she pretended that she didn’t know or couldn’t remember what my name was.

Whenever she had some assignment for me she’d say, “You. What’s your name again?”



She said this like the answer annoyed her, like my name should have been “Mary” or something else easier for her to recall and I was just being difficult.

Anyway, repeat this exact conversation, oh, every day for about six months until one day, when she thought I was out of earshot, she was looking for someone to run an errand and she said loudly, “What’s that girl’s name again? Triscuit?”


Yes, she thought my honest-to-God name was Triscuit. What in the name of all that is holy and rational is that about? Kristen is apparently such an exotic and difficult name that the only thing she could call to mind when straining her brain to remember it was a wheat cracker?

From that point forward, my friends and co-workers in the office called me Triscuit, and I could have easily been offended by it, but Triscuit was so utterly ridiculous that it was hard to be upset about. But it’s interesting that Barb’s idea of putting me in my place—both intentionally and unintentionally—involved messing around with my name.

Naming and identity are two hugely important elements in my debut novel, TABULA RASA.

The two main characters undergo name changes over the course of the story. In both cases, the names they start out with don’t feel comfortable for them, and as they move toward their “real,” authentic selves, their names change.

Also, my main character, Sarah, and several other of the characters in the story are patients in a hospital where their memories are being modified. The patients’ last names have been stripped away and they go by first names only. Last names carry hints about your ethnicity and maybe even where in the world you came from, though not always. Practically speaking, without those surnames, you can’t trace who you are or where you came from. Removing a person’s last name essentially takes away their inherited history.

I play with this concept a lot in TABULA RASA—the blankness of these kids’ lives and what effect that has on them. Part of what Sarah achieves is reflected in her name change. I wanted the moment she uses her “new” name to be a moment of empowerment for her.

So this is what’s in a name. Or what should be anyway.

The past, the present, and a sense of ownership.

Every name is invested with meaning, but for a name to feel authentic and real, it should be your meaning, not someone else’s. If you don’t like your name, you can pick another one. You can claim your identity anew. You can even take an insult and turn it into a point of pride. You have the power to do that.

Just like I took charge of my ridiculous nickname and laughed it off.

And do you know what? To this day, I enjoy a Triscuit now and again with no hard feelings. In fact, I do hope that you’ll think of me if you should have one from now on too.

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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8 Responses to “Kristen Lippert-Martin discusses: What’s in a Name?”

  1. Carmel @ Rabid Reads

    I can totally relate to your Triscuit scenario because I’ve had bosses like that too. It’s always good when the head of HR is going around introducing a new employee, and can’t remember the current ones’ names, despite the plate on their office doors. Haha I don’t think I’ve ever come across a book where the characters undergo name changes over the course of the story, but it’s an interesting idea!
    Carmel @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Review: Hunted by the Others by Jess HainesMy Profile

  2. Tabitha (Not Yet Read)

    What a ridiculous woman. People like her don’t realize just how poorly others really think of them for their petty games. Way to go you for not letting such a person get you down!

  3. Kel @ Booked til Tuesday

    While I was never subjected to a name change (although Triscuit is pretty funny), I had a super-sized sundae crazy boss experience, too. Luckily, it didn’t last long, and the pay was good enough to laugh it off. 😉

    But names definitely hold histories and connotations for us. Of course, I actually liked “Sarah” and “Pierce” better than their new names in the book, but there you go. Great post! 🙂
    Kel @ Booked til Tuesday recently posted…Fan Art Up! – Jim HawkinsMy Profile