The Ottawa Public Library posted something on their Twitter feed today that made me laugh. They asked whether the twist in a book was more shocking or the realization that you’d been mispronouncing the characters’ names all along. And there’s kind of a funny behind-the-scenes River of Crows story I want to tell you about this that involves Ayslenne, one of the main characters.

A screenshot of a tweet from the Ottawa Public Library Twitter feed, dated February 10th, 2023. It says: "what's more shocking? the twist in your book or the realization that all along you mispronounced the names of the characters ?"
I mean, we’ve all been there, right? When you suddenly realize that you’ve been mispronouncing something—sometimes for years— because you’ve only ever seen it written and never actually heard anyone say it? That does happen to other people and not just me, right? Right?

Originally, when I was in the planning and early writing stages for the book, Ayslenne’s name was going to be Aislin, and then I learned that Aislin is an Irish name that is actually pronounced “Ashlyn”, but by then I had grown so attached to the way I was pronouncing it that I changed it to something that I thought looked the way I wanted it to sound.

But, it gets better. I was so flummoxed as to how one could possibly get an “ash” sound out of “ais”, that I started looking up other Irish words and listening to how they were pronounced—and, dear readers, it turns out that pretty much the entire Irish language is like this. I was fascinated!

Naturally, I had to use ALL THE IRISH WORDS in my story. Especially since this is fantasy and, hence, it clearly requires cool-sounding names for things. But, I had to make them pronounceable to English language readers. So, many of the place names and geographical features in River Of Crows are my attempt at phonetic transcription of Irish translations of English words. 😆

(Oh, and just in case my phonetics aren’t as good as I hope they are, “Ayslenne” rhymes with “HAYS-lin.” 😉)

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