Hearth - The Name

Image by designedbynico from Pixabay

I was born in a small town called Stratford, located in Taranaki, New Zealand.

That Stratford, of course, is named after the town in England. English Stratford was the birthplace of the Bard so it will come as little surprise to learn that the streets in my Stratford have Shakespearean-inspired names – Ariel Street…Falstaff Street…Cordelia Street…Verona Place.

There is a Capulet Place which is an offshoot of Montague Grove – so those two families must have made amends. And yes, there is a Juliet Street but fittingly separated from Romeo Street by a state highway. Romeo, however, intersects with Hamlet, Portia, and Miranda Streets. Just imagine if Shakespeare had done a Romeo and Juliet/Hamlet/Merchant of Venice/The Tempest cross-over. And if you think that’s just given me an idea for a future Aedean mash-up then you would be correct.

When I was nine, we moved half an hour south to a slightly less small town called Hāwera. That name in Māori means the breath of fire, or burnt place, because of a fire set during a historic battle there.

My first novel, Finding Home, is a quasi-autobiographical account of how we ended up in Hāwera. While I heavily fictionalised the events that caused us to leave, the feelings are sourced directly from experience. The town in Finding Home is called Lumley and its layout is lifted directly from Stratford, two roundabouts and all.

The Journey to Hearth

The classic heroic journey begins from home base. I wanted Lucy to come from somewhere small, to contrast with the hugeness of the responsibility she was about to assume, so I naturally returned to my home town. When I’ve set previous novel ideas in small towns I tend to default to either Stratford or Hāwera as the template.

But when creating Lucy’s starting point, for whatever reason, elements of both Stratford and Hāwera filled my head. When I imagined Lucy’s house, it was the old villa from our days in Hāwera. Hearth High’s layout is based on Hāwera Primary School. So is the swimming pool. But Hearth is geographically located where Stratford sits, while its main streets (that X in the middle of town) are a crazy combination of both places.

As with the name of Aedea, I wanted the name of Lucy’s home town to demonstrate the main concept – to be both straightforward and meta. “Home” was too straightforward. “Ohme” and various other anagrams, respellings, and translations of “home” – including several Māori translations – were too… Well, I’d just done used the respelling trick with Aedea itself and no translation grabbed me.

The Destination

It was my husband who came up with the name Hearth. It’s a synonym for “home” but also carries the comforting feeling that comes with its main definition – a fireplace.

Most importantly, it looked like the name of the town. I know that’s a strange thing to say, given that there are towns around the world called all manner of names. But it looked right on the page. And it felt right.

Also, as I dug into the word, I discovered that the hearth was traditionally located in the middle of a room. I liked the sense of centrality that carried. I then realised that it had the words “Earth” and “Heart” in it, making it an even more perfect birthplace for the human chosen by Hā-Bringer to defend our planet.

Bonus Round

I did seriously toy with another synonym of “home” – Haunt. But whereas Hearth gives the sense of warmth, Haunt evokes the exact opposite feeling which would have made for a darker overall story. One idea I had using it was to reference classical horror writers in a meta way with the surnames of the teachers in Haunt High. That idea to reference writers survived, but in a different form. Fortunately, I was far more taken with Hearth, and during the writing of The Mythic Mattel launched the Monster High line, driving a stake through Haunt, turning it to dust.