I promised the story of why Alyc and I chose the pen name M.A. Carrick. Since this is the two-year anniversary of us coming up with the idea of the Rook and Rose series, it seems like an appropriate time to tell that tale.
We knew going into this that there were good odds a publisher would prefer to put the book out under a single name rather than two of them, and were totally willing to do that. But what name? There’s a time-honored tradition of looking to things like maiden names; I have no idea if Alyc’s family tree offers up any good ones, but none of the nearby names in my ancestry felt right. And we’d want it to be something that felt like it represented us both in some fashion, not just one side.
Well, what did James S.A. Corey (aka Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) do? It turns out they used their middle names, plus initials from Abraham’s daughter. Unfortunately for us, if we did that we’d get . . . Marie Marie. (Yes, Marie is my middle name.) Not really an option.
Okay, forget the first name — we could do initials for that, M.A. or A.M., for Alyc and Marie. And then all we would need is a last name. What could represent us both?
We met a little over nineteen years ago at an archaeological field school in Wales and Ireland, based primarily at the site of Castell Henllys. Henllys would have us both trying and failing to pronounce the Welsh double L correctly; Castell is easier to just give up on and turn into a normal L, but on the other hand it means “castle,” which felt just a wee bit too on-the-nose for a fantasy author. But hang on . . . two of the six weeks of the field school were spent in Ireland, with us working at sites like Devenish Island or Aghalurcher. None of those clicked.
Our nights, however, were spent in the town of Carrickmacross.
There’s a delicate thing that happens with collaboration where you think up some BRILLIANT idea and then hope to hell your partner likes it, because you’re having a hard time imagining anything else now. Fortunately, when I pitched “M.A. Carrick” to Alyc, not only did they love it, they made it better: because they immediately pointed out that Carrick-ma-cross = Carrick is a cross between M(arie) and A(lyc). Which I hadn’t even realized when I thought it up; I was just shortening “Carrickmacross” to something a little less unwieldy.
So there you have it! And when we were in Dublin for WorldCon last month, we had someone take photos of the two of us together; it remains to be seen whether we like any of them well enough to use them as our author photo, but it seemed appropriate to try to get a shot there, in the country that gave rise to our pen name and our friendship.