Wednesday 23 November 2011

Being Bennett

I wasn't born a Bennett. I married into it over 21 years ago. At the time I thought this was a Good Thing. I had no problems with giving up my maiden name, having spent all my life spelling it out to people. I was born Louie. Not Louis, Lowe, Lovie, Long, Louise, Louse or Lousy, but Louie. Yes, it's unusual - in the UK at least - as it's phonetic Chinese and came from my Cantonese grandfather who came to England in the early 20th century with the Chinese navy, where he met my Liverpudlian grandmother, fell in love and decided to stay.

I never knew my grandfather as even though I was 16 when he died, he never spoke a word of English that I could understand. I've never quite worked out how he managed to live the rest of his life in England, marry and raise 10 children and yet not speak the language - my dad says they all managed to understand each other, but I never could. I deeply regret not knowing him - he would have had such fascinating stories to tell of life in pre-revolution China as a member of the aristocracy who was cut off from his family and status when he married beneath him. In an attempt to appease the family he left behind, he sent his two eldest sons - my uncles - back to China as young children and they were never heard of again. It was always a taboo subject in the family as my grandmother was so upset at losing her children, so it was never spoken of when I was young. I do know my cousin (at the time a tax-exile living in the Caribbean - I have such interesting relatives!) spent quite some time and money looking for our lost uncles in the 1980s, even going so far as placing adverts in the Hong Kong newspapers, but with no success.

So my grandfather enters the UK and his name is written down as Harry Ying Louie. Bizarrely, half my aunts and uncles are registered with the surname Ying and half with the surname Louie - creating my family tree was a challenge even with the ones in this country! And I grew up forever spelling out my name to everybody and telling them that no, I wasn't French. And thank you so much to the creator of the 1970s cartoon series Hong Kong Phooey - it was a lovely nickname. Not.

Interestingly, there are lots of Louies in the USA - particularly around the Philadelphia area, which is coincidently where my grandfather apparently said that other members of his family had settled. So I may have relatives over there too.

I married a Bennett in 1990 and thought all my troubles would be over. And spelling-wise, I guess that's true as most people get it right, although it's sometimes spelled with just the one t at the end. But now I find there are so many of them. I never realised that Bennett was such a common surname. And Debbie too (although a great many of us were born within a few years of each other - it's definitely a mid-sixties name!). I've come across Debbie Bennett the singer, Debbie Bennett the racing car driver and even Debbie Bennett who runs her own PR agency (for a few months I got some lovely invitations to celebrity bashes as our email addresses were very similar). Being fairly computer-literate and having had an email address and internet presence for longer than I care to remember, I have enough hits to generally be top of a google search on my name - in fact I have most of the top 10 spots in one form or another.

The problem is that when I publish ebooks, it starts getting complicated. When I first published my thriller Hamelin's Child on amazon, the author was DJ Bennett. I went for just initials as being non-gender-specific tends to sell more books (sexist, but apparently true for crime and thriller genres). Plus when I published other genres, I wanted to be subtly different as my target markets are miles apart and I wouldn't want a teenage reader of YA fantasy Edge Of Dreams to jump straight to a an adult thriller. On smashwords, there's no facility for different books on the same author account to have different author names and when smashwords distributes to other e-retailers, all hell breaks loose.

So the Apple i-store currently has my books listed under Debbie Bennett (singer)'s account and I have no idea how to go about changing it! There doesn't seem to be a support email that I can find - it's one of those help sections that sends you round in endless circles like telephoning a call centre (I once spent 45 minutes in Vodafone's system pushing button after button and hearing so many recorded messages I would have verbally-murdered a human being had any ever actually answered). I'm not overly concerned as I'm sure Debbie's songs are lovely. I'm just not so sure she'd want to be associated with my books!


jaylen watkins said...

Well it is really amazing that a person lived so many years of life and raised so many children but never spoke a word of English.

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Debbie Bennett said...

It is, isn't it? Apparently he spoke a kind of pidgin English that the family understood, but I never did. He scared me when I was a young child - I grew up in a very culturally white community and he was very different.

Vicky Murphy said...

I hope that you discussed and got the go-ahead from various relatives for this prior to telling all & sundry, as it does impact on their privacy.