Monday, 28 October 2013

meeting Robin Hobb

Yesterday I had some time off being a Mum and travelled into Glasgow to see Robin Hobb talking at Waterstones.  It was lovely to be able to go where I wanted, when I wanted, and to spend a good quantity of time reading (one of her books).

I must admit, I don't get on terribly well with Hobb's books.  The names of the characters annoy me (although that's my problem - they are completely in keeping with her world), and I don't like the magicy element (again, that's my problem - magic is, after all, to be expected in fantasy).  But the thing that really annoys me is that the central character has a familiar in the form of a wolf.  This of course happens in George RR Martin's books too, and I have no problems with the direwolves, but Hobb's Nighteyes (what a name) is much more doggy than the direwolves, and that's probably why it annoys me.  I cannot be doing with dogs.

All that said, I love the way Hobb shows you people's characters, and how they are feeling, by the way they live, and what surrounds them.  I also have immense respect for women who make it as fantasy authors, and Robin Hobb has certainly made it.  However, Robin is a pen name.  Her real name is Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden (ahh, Ogden - there was a lad called Ogden who was in Cider with Rosie with me, but sadly I was not Rosie).  So I wondered why she'd chosen a name usually thought of as a boy's name for her high fantasy?

I should note here, that most of Hobb's stories have been written under the pseudonym Megan Lindholm - clearly a girly name, but still not wholly hers.

I asked her.  Why did you choose the names Megan Lindholm and Robin Hobb, and why have two names?

She said that Lindholm is her maiden name (using your maiden name as a middle name is common practice in America, and I wish I'd thought of doing it), and she didn't want to be Margaret as it didn't fit well on the cover.  People call her Meggie, but she didn't want to be that, Maggie, or Peggy, or any of those things, as they seemed too frivolous, so she settled on Megan.  Megan Lindholm writes all sorts of long form and short form stories in lots of fantasy and sci fi genres.

When she started out writing the books set in the Six Duchies, she was getting into a new genre for her: epic fantasy or high fantasy.  Her publisher wanted her to use a different name, and suggested an androgynous name would be useful because that would help readers to understand her book being from the main, male character's point of view.

She had a think about it.  She went and had a look at some book shops to see what might be a good name.  She noticed that the H's were at eye level, so she decided to be a H.  She chose Hobb because it could be nice and big on the front cover, and because it brought to mind hobbits and hobgoblins, as well as hobs.  She chose Robin because it sounded good, and because it brought to mind Robin Hood.  But also because it looked good on the page.  She didn't mention choosing an androgynous name to boost sales.  She'd already done well as Megan Lindholm, but she did brilliantly as Robin Hobb.

So I've been wondering, if you were an author, what kind of books would you write, and what name would you use?  I'd like to write high fantasy myself, and I have no idea what I'd call myself.  Cara R McKee?

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