I'm on the last 90 pages of the book and can hardly put it down. My question is about the pronunciation of the names "Sawtelle" and "Almondine." Loved the book. I became allergic to dogs in the past few years, but in the pages of this book, I was able to feel as if I were cuddling up close to a dog and oh, how good that felt!
Hi, Janet, yes, there are a few tricky names in the book, and you are not the first to wonder how they are pronounced. Here's a quick pronunciation guide for the names you mentioned, plus a few others.
Sawtelle: Saw-TELL (the final "e" is silent)
And the trickiest of all:
Chequamegon: Sha-WAH-me-gon (the q is pronounced like a w )
As for Edgar's first and last name, I chose them based purely on their sound. When first starting the book, all I knew was that I wanted the main character's first name to have two syllables and begin with an open vowel sound. Don't ask me why that was important, it just was—right from the beginning my mental placeholder for the main character's name was a two-note melody: AH-ah. But I didn't have any real syllables attached to the melody.
I toyed with lots of names, none felt perfect. Then I came across "Edgar." I immediately locked in on it, for several reasons. First, it fit the sound pattern I'd been imagining. Second, I didn't know anyone named "Edgar," so the name didn't come loaded with preconceptions. It had a slightly formal sound to it, too, which I thought was appealing. Finally, I liked that "Edgar" could be shortened to "Gar" for his father's name—by then I also knew that the main character was named after his father. By making them Edgar/Gar I could avoid the confusion that would inevitably arise in scenes where two Edgars appeared.
For months "Edgar" had no last name. While driving home from work one day, I heard the name "Sawtelle" on the radio, and it just clicked. I loved the musicality of it, and it worked together with "Edgar" beautifully—the hard "g" in his first name offset by the soft "s" in Sawtelle. Unfortunately, I don't remember what I was listening to on that drive—not even whether it was music or a news segment on NPR—so I can't trace the source any further. All I know is that by the time I parked my car in the driveway, Edgar had a last name.