What’s in a name, a particular person’s name?

Published November 11, 2012 by A.J.B. Johnston

The central character of Thomas, A Secret Life carries the same name and some of the life details of an actual historical personage, one Thomas Pichon (1700-1781). Contrary to a couple of Atlantic Canada reviews of the book, however, my intention was not exactly to bring that personage to life. Well, maybe it was in the beginning. But it ceased to be as the character came to his own life on page after page. I now see my Thomas Pichon as a quite independent character all on his own. He stands apart from the literal historical figure, and does so more and more as the page count grows. With hindsight, I see this was inevitable because I began my story when Thomas was age twelve. That was long before the historical Thomas Pichon really offered much evidence at all. My guess is that my Thomas has more than a little in common with Annabel Lyons’ Aristotle in her novel, The Golden Mean. Or how about I think back to high school English courses I once took.  I guess I aspire to do with Thomas what I was told Shakespeare did with Hamlet, Macbeath and many other historical figures. He made them his own. I figure if I’m going to aspire with my central character, I might as well aspire big. So, if there are readers out there who have no idea (and what’s more don’t care) who Thomas Pichon really was, don’t give it a thought. My Thomas is for you. If someday you want to check out the other guy, that’s what history books are for. Thomas, A Secret Life is not of that genre; it’s a novel.

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