Today on the Big Reveal, Suzi asked about character names. And it’s funny because not so long ago I was thinking about my use of the name Charles.

I’ve used the name Charles repeatedly, which is weird because I don’t normally use names more than once. But somehow, at different parts of my writing career, Charles has popped up and managed to finagle his way into my work.

In my Sherlock Holmes story “Mystery of the Last Line,” there is a passing reference to a man named Charles who (it turns out) had been in love with Mycroft.

In another Sherlock story I wrote, Charles became a sinister predator who had once been Sherlock’s chemistry instructor and was now one of Moriarty’s men, developing an addictive—and fatal—new drug.

And if you’ve read any of the Peter Stoller books, you know Charles as Peter’s true love.

So what we gather from this is: All versions of Charles in my work are British and gay.

Now what’s interesting is that Charles was the name of my first “official” boyfriend. But he was obsessive, calling all the time (this was before mobile phones), and we had an awkward breakup. So I’m not sure how I carried that name forward into my work, why I imbued it with these foreign qualities that have little relation to the Charles I knew. (Well, maybe the obsessiveness is there in some of these incarnations. But my Charles I met at church. And he was definitely not gay. Or British even, more’s the pity.)

My uncle’s name is also Charles, but he’s always been called by his middle name, so I don’t feel that’s particularly relevant.

Anyway, it’s interesting sometimes to reflect on the underpinnings of one’s psyche. Something about “Charles” is rooted in mine evidently. Though now that I have such a fine specimen in Charles Toulson (Peter’s lover), I don’t think I’ll be using the name again.

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