What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.
I love Shakespeare, but I think I may have to disagree with him on this one. A rose may smell as sweet, but since we’ve called it a rose, that word evokes memories of its smell, its colour and all the times we have experienced it. So, a name is not simply a name. It is a trigger. How many names do you dislike, because you once knew someone with that name, and didn’t like them?
My name, T. D. Harvey, is not the name my parents or my family gave me. It is a pen name. I am not trying to hide who I really am, and I am not ashamed. I am very proud of my family and my name. However, there are some family members who are not represented by my given name. When I was writing my first novel, Paper Dragons and Shadow Demons, I decided to use a pseudonym. I did this for two reasons and I’ll do my best to explain.
Firstly, I like to compartmentalise my life. We all wear different faces depending on the role we play at any given time. A parent is likely to behave differently with their child than with their friends at the pub. We are likely to put on our best persona when interviewing for a new job or meeting our future in-laws for the first time. I like that about human nature and I like that I can be one person at work, another with my parents and another at home. However, when I started writing the novel, I realised I was suddenly a third person. I was a writer. Although I have always written, this was the first time I had really tried to write for an audience. I realised I needed a new persona. By being Tee, I can switch my brain from being daughter or auntie, partner or colleague, and become a writer. My focus changes and any issues in any part of my life are put away, for later consideration. This allows me to focus on my writing and put all else aside.
Secondly, I’d like to go back to those family members who don’t carry my given names. I am an animal lover. They are a huge part of my life. My family are equally crazy about our furry friends and all our pets are our family. They may not speak English, and they may have more legs than us, but we love them as we do each other. So, my pen name allows me to remember some of my family.
So let’s start with T. T is for Tee, that’s me when I’m writing. But T originated from Toto and Tomek. Toto was my first dog. My parents decided to get a second dog to keep our Yorkshire terrier, Perseus, company. I was fifteen and working at my summer job, having just left secondary school. I arrived home to find a tiny ball of black fluff waiting for me. She chose to spend the rest of the day with me and slept with me that night. She never left me. Even when I moved to Wales for university and to Philadelphia, USA to work as an Au Pair, she remained loyal to me and greeted me with such joy, whether I was gone for one minute or one year. Toto was a Scottish terrier crossed with a Cairn terrier. She had been bred for animal testing, but my parents managed to rescue her from that terrible life. She was very smart, tenacious and great fun to have around. I cannot imagine the suffering she would have gone through. She was a joy and I loved her so very much. I lost my dear Toady back on July 11th 2004 to liver cancer. She passed in my arms and I’m crying as I write this. I still miss her, ten years on, and I couldn’t think of a better way to honour her, than to give her my first name. Toady was born on 1st April 1990, hence why I’m posting this on April Fool’s Day. She was my little April Fool!
My beautiful Toto
T also stands for Tomek. Tomek was my first cat. Back when I was training as a Veterinary Nurse, a small black and white cat was brought in by the Police. He had been tied in a bag and dumped in a bin. I was horrified. It is truly disturbing and extremely distressing to see what humans are prepared to do to animals. This poor little cat was terrified. We turned a bed upside down and he hid underneath it for three days. He refused to eat, drink or use a litter tray. He simply hid under that bed. He was underweight and had tonsillitis, making his lower lip pout. I decided to take him home for the remainder of the statutory 7 days, before trying to find him a new home. With two terriers at home, I couldn’t have a cat, so he was to live in our spare room until I found him a home. By that time we had lost Perseus and Toto had been devastated at his loss. So my parents brought home Jasper, the sweetest, gentlest…and dumbest Yorkshire terrier that ever lived. I decided to introduce Tomek to Toto and Jasper. I knew Toto would not hurt him and risk upsetting me. I also knew Jasper would love a new friend to play with.
Tomek, Jasper and Toto
The three of them were a picture. Toto would look at this thing that looked like a cat, smelled like a cat, but didn’t run away like a cat. She spent her life rather confused by the whole thing. This cat-type creature refused to run away. He would rub up against her instead. If she saw him in the garden, she would run out barking, only to come to a screeching hault where the cat-type thing just sat, waiting for her. Jasper and Tomek had a very different relationship. They were two naughty brothers who were always getting in trouble together. Tomek had some emotional issues following his traumatic start, but he was loving and wonderful. We lost him to diabetes and my parents haven’t been able to have another cat.
Onto, D. D is for Duke. Duke is my 15 year old Welsh Cob. I have always loved horses. As a child my parents couldn’t afford riding lessons let alone a pony. However, once a year, on our camping holidays in the Isle of Wight, my wonderful parents would pay for an hour’s riding lesson at a local school. It was the one thing I looked forward to the most about our holidays. As a child I had lots of pets, but I never got to have a pony. Fast forward to 2001. I met a pony named Duke. He was a runt with a big head, no shoulders and so skinny and small that his owners thought he would be a good pony for their young daughter to ride. However, he kept growing and they soon realised that he was going to be too big. That was when they offered him to me. I snapped him up. I was a complete novice with a two year old pony and we both learned together. I finally had my dream. I had a horse and I loved him instantly. We built a wonderful, trusting relationship which he proved time and time again. When I was kicked by a horse twice Duke’s size, he ran between me and her, turning his bum to her, a horse’s way of saying, “back off or else”, and threatening her to stay away from me. He was my hero. I worked tirelessly to build his strength, confidence and ability. I was told by vets and ‘horsey’ people that he would never make more than a ‘happy hacker’, because of his lack of muscle. He also had gut problems due to worm damage and skin problems. I didn’t listen and continued to work with him. Over time, his confidence grew and his muscles grew with it. He became a beautiful boy. Not as big as he should have been, but beautiful nonetheless.
Me and Duke dressed as Mexicans for a fancy dress competition. Duke even wore a stick-on mustache!
All those people have eaten their words. Duke is a fabulous pony now. His confidence is so great that he takes all the young horses out on rides, teaching them how to be quiet in traffic and calm when scary things happen. He loves to jump, enjoys cross country courses and travels in a horse box brilliantly. Unfortunately, I am too unwell to take care of him now. It’s something I miss every single day. But I have three wonderful women who share responsibility for him and keep him working and healthy. He is very lucky to be so well loved and I am lucky to have people I can trust to care for him. I hope to go back to him one day, but for now, I visit when I can and look at the photos of his latest adventure.
Duke with one of his surrogate mummies in the Handy Pony competition
So finally we come to Harvey. Harvey was an eighteen year old, chocolate point, Traditional Siamese. I’ve never been a fan of oriental cats, but this one changed my mind. He was brought into the surgery I was nursing at. The owner’s wanted him put to sleep because they didn’t want him anymore, but didn’t want to stay and be with him for it. People like that make me sick. When I went into the vets’ consulting room, this skinny, old cat stood on his hind legs, put his paws either side of my neck and pulled me down to him, nuzzling into my neck. I looked at the vet, a very good friend and vet saying, “I don’t care what we do, I’m not killing this cat.” She agreed. We treated him for cat flu and arthritis and I took him to my home with my partner. Harvey waltzed in as if he had always lived there. He draped himself over my partner’s shoulders and stayed there. We planned to spoil him rotten for the last few months of his life. We were determined to make up for what his owners had done to him.
He was an amazing cat. He loved everyone and wanted to be involved in everything. He spent the next three years making our lives immeasurably better and we did everything we could to repay his love and devotion. When we lost him to kidney failure, he was in my partners’ arms to the end. My partner was inconsolable as they had a very special bond. Harvey left an enormous hole in our lives and we will never forget him. He had to be my new surname.
Harvey lounging in the sun in his custom made bed
Of course, I have had many other pets, but my pen name would be ridiculous if I tried to cover all of them. I have loved them all, but Toto, Tomek, Duke and Harvey were/are very special and I wanted to honour them by using their names as my own. It means nothing in the real world, but to me, it means everything. They are always with me when I write.
So, there you are. T. D. Harvey is simply a name. It happens to be the pen name of a dark fiction writer. It also happens to be some of the most important members of my family. My partner and I now have two wonderful Tonkinese cats called, Kike (Keekay) and Kai. Harvey convinced us that orientals are fabulous. Unfortunately, in the UK, we only have Traditional-type Siamese, a blend of modern and classic Siamese to try to emulate the Traditional characteristics. We instead chose Tonkinese, originally a mix of Burmese and Siamese, which is very close to the Traditional Siamese with its physical and behavioural specialities. Kike and Kai are every bit as special as we hoped they would be, although not as gregarious and adoring as Harvey was, and they will be immortalised in my second novel, Children of the Hidden Realm. Well, I can’t keep changing my name, can I?
Kike and Kai
A final thought. Why have I told you all this? Because my animals are a very big part of my life. For my readers to get a true sense of who I am, they need only know why I am T. D. Harvey.
Kai and Kike