Karen’s Killer Book Bench: Not According To Flan (The Dinner Club Murder Mysteries) by Karen C. Whalen

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The Dinner Club Murder Mysteries


Jane Marsh wants to shake off the empty nest syndrome, plus the notoriety of the death of her first and second husbands, by starting over in a new place. She sells her family home to move to a far northern suburb of Denver. At the same time, Jane’s dinner club is undergoing a transformation, and a new man—a gourmet chef—enters her life.

But, things turn sour when, on the day Jane moves into her new home, she discovers a dead body. She cannot feel at home in this town where she’s surrounded by cowboys, horse pastures, and suspects. Not to mention where a murder was committed practically on her doorstep. How can she focus on romance and dinner clubs when one of her new friends—or maybe even her old ones—might be a murderer?


Writers are often asked how we come up with the names for our characters. After the question of how we come up with the ideas for our books, the naming question is asked the most frequently. Plots form and morph and solidify over time, but often the initial name authors give their character sticks and lasts to the final galley—and this can be a mistake. But, changing a character’s name after his or her creation is like changing one’s baby’s name after his or her first birthday.

Writers are taught a descriptive name helps define the character for the reader. J.R. Rowling knew this when she named Lord Voldemort, Severus Snape, Draco Malfoy, Luna Lovegood, and the rest. Even the more minor players are important. Luna Lovegood is ditzy, but by her sweet nature provides courage to those suffering around her, and Neville Longbottom starts out as a klutz, but ends up a sword-brandishing hero. Examples of this abound in literature. In David Cooperfield, Uriah Heep is a slimy human being, and his name does leave a distaste. Going back to biblical times, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Jacob’s to Israel in line with their roles in history.

In fantasies, such as the Harry Potter series, liberty can be taken with inventing names, like Draco or Luna. In cozy mysteries, writers use a little more restraint. The protagonist in my dinner club murder mystery series is an average, middle-aged professional woman, and I gave her the common name of Jane, paired with a last name from my family tree, Marsh. Most other names are taken from lists of popular names from certain years. I named an upper-crust character the more formal name of Olivia.

One lesson I learned too late is that attention must be paid to each person’s name, not just the major characters. I introduced a minor character in the first book, Dale Capricorn. One of my editors liked the name, thinking the last name was memorable, so I kept it. Dale found his way back into the third and fourth books. However, another member of the dinner club is named Doug. I was advised by my critique group that Doug and Dale were too similar, but book one and two are already published so neither name could be changed. I considered giving Dale a nickname when reintroduced in book three, but Dale doesn’t lend itself to shortening. I considered “Cap,” but there is already another character named Caleb. I considered the initials, D.J., but D.J. is Jane’s love interest and their names together would be D.J. and Jane, sounding once again similar. I posted these suggestions on my Facebook page to gather the opinions of other authors and readers alike, but no one seemed to embrace the change.

If only I’d considered Dale’s name more carefully from the moment of his creation.

The solution was to organize an alphabetical character chart, listing all the names of any character introduced by name in all the books in the series. The only letters not taken were I, O, Q, X, and Y. If only I’d named him Ian, Oliver, Quentin, Xavier, or Yates! I put out a Facebook post for my readers to help pick the name of the next character from that list. One reader’s comment was: “Remember the show Rawhide? The lead in it was Eastwood, who was named Rowdy Yates. Always associated a macho character with the name,” which goes to show that a name does help describe the character.

After much angst, I left Dale’s name alone. It was just too painful to change his name after the fact. I figured only God could do that.

Meet Author Karen C. Whalen...

Karen C. Whalen is the author of the Dinner Club Murder Mystery series. She worked for many years as a paralegal at a law firm in Denver, Colorado. Karen has been a columnist and regular contributor to The National Paralegal Reporter magazine. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and participates in a local writing group, the Louisville Writers Workshop.


Links to Karen’s website, blog, books, etc.

Website: http://karencwhalen.com/ 

Link to Not According to Flan:

Links to Everything Bundt the Truth:

Everything Bundt The Truth: 


Not According to Flan:



**SPECIAL GIVEAWAY**: Karen will give away an ebook copy of NOT ACCORDING TO FLAN to one reader who comments on her Killer Book Bench blog.  Thanks, Karen, for sharing your book with us!

Don’t miss the chance to read this book!

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17 Responses to Karen’s Killer Book Bench: Not According To Flan (The Dinner Club Murder Mysteries) by Karen C. Whalen

  1. Bonnie Gonzales says:

    Ok now I want to read it, please put my name in the hat.

  2. Karen Docter says:

    Good morning, Karen, and welcome back to Karen’s Killer Book Bench. Ah, the trials of naming characters! I have a story about a heroine named Monica. I was working through a story with this heroine when my critique partners finally rebelled and told me I had to change her name. It was during the Clinton presidency and no one could read my heroine as Monica after that. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your book with us today!

    • Karen Whalen says:

      How funny is that. I think Monica has once again become a “safe” name.

      • Karen Docter says:

        Probably. However, I STILL remember so the name is no longer a possibility for me. I’ll always envision that name a certain way. 🙂 🙂

      • Karen Docter says:

        Because I’m writing two series, I finally broke down and created my own spreadsheet for all of the names I’ve ever used and am keeping track of the series names I need to keep. At this point, I think I’d go nuts and have changing names and descriptions (same spreadsheet) within the books. Guess I’m kind of Type-A about it now. 🙂 🙂

  3. Helen Rodin Drake says:

    I think the name Dinner Club Murder Mysteries is a great name for a mystery series. I think most of us love to eat. Love the Title of this book, Not According to Flan! This serie is one I want to read. I think the titles of books are a great lure to readers to want to read them. Then they can get to know your characters. Our book club is known as Delicious Discussions and we meet in local restaurants to discuss the book of the month.

    • Karen Whalen says:

      I can Skype in to join your club if you pick my book to read. Let me know if you’d like to do that. Thanks for your comment.

      • Helen Drake says:

        Our books are already selected for next few months. Unfortunately the only books the library selects are those that they can get a bunch of copies from this service that provides books for library book clubs. I’ll ask if there is a way we could try one of your books.

  4. Names are very important. I’ve often wondered how authors can keep up with who’s where. I’ve imagined a big board with names checked off! 😉
    Thanks for the interview! Not entering, thanks.

  5. Eileen AW says:

    Your series sounds great!! Enjoyed your explanation about names too. Thank you.

  6. bn100 says:

    interesting title

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