Essence Blog Tour: Guest Post with Lisa Ann O'Kane

Welcome to my stop on the Essence blog tour! 

I'm very excited to share with you today a terrific guest post written by none other than the author of Essence, Lisa Ann O'Kane. I already read an eARC of this book (read my review here) and I promise Essence is a must if you love dystopian societies and adrenaline junkies.

But first, here's a bit about Essence (out June 3rd, 2014):

Autumn escaped a cult, but now she realizes she's fallen into another. 
Growing up in San Francisco’s Centrist Movement, sixteen year-old Autumn Grace has always believed emotions—adrenaline, endorphins, even happiness—drain your Essence and lead to an early death. But her younger brother’s passing and a run-in with a group of Outsiders casts her faith into question. 
Ryder Stone, the sexy, rebellious leader of the Outsiders, claims Essence drain is nothing more than a Centrist scare tactic -- and he can prove it. 
Autumn follows Ryder to his Community of adrenaline junkies and free spirits in Yosemite National Park, and they introduce her to a life of adventure, romance, sex, drugs and freedom. But as she discovers dark secrets beneath the Community’s perfect exterior, she realizes the more she risks in search of the perfect rush, the further she has to fall.
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Sounds good, right? Now off to the guest post!

Choosing the Right Character Names for Essence

The perfect name has the ability to transform a forgettable character into an exceptional one, so I worked hard to try to get the names right in ESSENCE. 

I carry an arsenal of potential names around with me at all times, so sometimes, the perfect name is just a few short clicks away. Other times, I have to do extensive research, and I have trolled through those online baby name generators so many times I’m surprised they haven’t started sending me coupons for diapers and baby bottles yet.

When I first started ESSENCE, I immediately knew I wanted my main character’s name to be Autumn. I have always loved seasonal names, and I thought this one was a particularly nice nod to her very distinctive auburn/strawberry blonde hair. As for her middle name, Grace, I threw it in because I loved the way the two words sounded together. I also liked the idea that throughout the course of the novel, Autumn strives (and usually fails) to carry herself with grace.

The names for the rest of the ESSENCE cast were a little harder to wrangle. I particularly struggled with Ryder Stone’s name, because he is such a ‘big’ character that I knew he needed a name that hinted at his free-spirited, sometimes mischievous lifestyle. I found myself considering everything from Loki to Bodhi to Puck, and I finally settled on Ryder because I liked the idea that he’s always traveling from here to there. (Ironically, I actually settled on the name ‘Ryder Strong,’ and it took me nearly a year to realize I’d accidentally stolen it from Boy Meets World!)

Autumn’s other love interest, Javi, was initially named Paulo, but Paulo just didn’t roll of my tongue the way I wanted it to, so I began looking into other ‘sexy’ Latino names. I fell in love with Javi right away, but I didn’t settle on it for quite some time, because I was afraid readers would mispronounce it as ‘JAY-vee.’ (It’s short for Javier, so it’s actually pronounced ‘HAH-vee.’)

Cody and Jett’s names came to me much more naturally. I wanted Cody’s name to represent his wholesome, All-American sweetness, and Jett’s name pays homage to the singer Joan Jett. The bad-ass rocker girl also inspired Jett’s appearance. (Fun fact: I’m not sure if I ever decided if Jett was born with this name, or if she gave it to herself after she escaped the Centrists and joined the Community. I suppose that’s open to reader interpretation!)

Kadence’s name was originally “Cadence,” but I realized I had way too many ‘C’ names floating around the novel, so she got a last-minute switcheroo after I finished the first draft. Shayla also got a last-minute switcheroo. She looks just like—and was originally named after—my older sister Shana, but… well… Once you read ESSENCE, you will understand why I changed it.

Last but not least, my cult leaders! I named Cedar the Centrist cult leader after someone I didn’t like. (Insert winky face here.) And Rex Stone, Ryder’s father, was easy. His name has a nice, strong ring to it, and it is a nod to the Latin word for ‘king.’ This seemed particularly appropriate for the leader of the Yosemite Community. 

I hope you have enjoyed this behind-the-scenes peek at the character names in my debut novel ESSENCE. Thank you so much for stopping by, and I hope you have a wonderful day!

About the Author:

Lisa Ann O'Kane is a young adult author and former vagabond who once camped out in Yosemite National Park for an entire summer, an experience that inspired her debut novel ESSENCE. Her background is in zookeeping and environmental education, and she has been kicked, cornered, bitten and chased by nearly every animal she has ever loved. She currently resides in Florida, and she is now a huge fan of shooting stars, indoor plumbing and keeping both her feet planted firmly on the trail.

Find her online: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest


  1. Wow Melissa! I've seen like posts on/that feature Essence like 5 times on your blog already :) Seems like you really must like it! Just wondering, is Essence a stand-alone novel, or a series?

    1. Initially, Essence was supposed to be a series but the publisher decided to only publish the book as a standalone :'( I'm sort of mad about that because I liked this book and I don't care if others didn't like it. The story must go on and there's no way the author can leave it like that. Enough said *throws mic*

    2. Haha lol! :D If it's that good then I must go check this out sometime!

  2. What a nice post! :) I've just read your review, Melissa, and Essence sounds like a very intriguing book...I'm sorry it won't be a series, but I'm glad you enjoyed it SO much!

    1. I'm glad I gave this book a chance and beyond stoked I got to participate in the blog tour. ;) Loved to give it a spotlight.