The Story Behind the Name

We’ve been asked multiple times in interviews about where the name “M.A. Carrick” came from, and while we don’t mind answering, not everybody has read or listened to those interviews! So here is the tale, for posterity.

Before we ever sold the Rook and Rose trilogy, we knew we might be asked to publish under a joint pseudonym, rather than as “Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms.” There are arguments in favor of both approaches, but we were willing to go with a shared name, so we figured it would be good to think about that in advance.

Step One: ask ourselves, “what do other authors do for their collaborations?” James S.A. Corey immediately leapt to mind, so we looked them up. It turns out that S. and A. are the initials of Daniel Abrahams’ daughter, while James is his middle name, and Corey is Ty Frank’s middle name.

If we went that route, we would be . . . Marie Marie.

Okay, scratch that. The next thought was to look at our family trees — but that had problems, too. Quite apart from the fact that Marie wasn’t enthused about any of the names in her immediate ancestry, who would provide the first name, and who the family name? Since the latter is the more significant one from a publishing perspective, it was going to feel unbalanced. We could do initials for the first name, M for Marie and A for Alyc, but for the surname, it would be better to try another tactic entirely.

Now, for context, you need to know that most of the above was going through Marie’s head as she was getting ready for bed one night (which she generally does around three a.m. — well after Alyc is asleep). As she was brushing her teeth, she found herself thinking of the fact that she and Alyc had met at an archaeological field school in Wales and Ireland. The Welsh portion was at Castell Henllys; maybe Castell? No, that means “castle,” which felt just a leetle too on the nose for a fantasy collaboration. And Henllys was Right Out on account of that Welsh double L, which she knew both she and Alyc would feel obligated to try and pronounce correctly. The Irish portion of the school had been spread across multiple sites, of which some (Aghalurcher; Monasterboice) were also Right Out, and the one where we spent the most time (Devenish Island) sounded too much like Michael Deven from Marie’s novel Midnight Never Come — in fact, that might be where his name came from — and also too much like Alyc’s brother Devon.

But through all those different sites, the place we were living was the town of Carrickmacross.

Which is too long. And there was approximately half a second where Marie contemplated “M.A. Cross” before her brain said “WE SHALL BE M.A. CARRICK FOREVERMORE.”

Followed shortly by “. . . god, I hope Alyc likes this when I pitch it tomorrow, because it’s apparently just set itself in stone in my head.”

Fortunately, when the next morning dawned (rather earlier for Alyc than for Marie), not only did Marie still think her three a.m. idea was a good one, but Alyc loved it, too. They immediately recognized where it had come from, and furthermore, they saw a layer Marie hadn’t even noticed: Carrick-ma-cross = M.A. Carrick is a cross between M(arie) and A(lyc).

Even more fortunately, our publisher — who did indeed suggest a joint pseudonym — liked it as well! And so we shall be M.A. Carrick forevermore.