I just got the loveliest email from Sandra Tsing Loh! Not only is she a fabulous writer, performer, and radio commentator--she also happens to be the namesake of Ava Sing Lo, my main character in The Book of Dead Birds.
In 1996, when I first started writing the novel, all of my characters, don't ask me why, had punny names, like Justin Case (happily he ended up on the cutting room floor.) One day, I saw a mention of Sandra Tsing Loh's name in the newspaper out of the corner of my eye. I don't think I even read the article; I had never heard of her before at that point; her name just jumped out at me, and Ava Sing Lo's name was born.
It didn't take long for me to discover who Sandra Tsing Loh was, and I quickly became a fan of her hilarious and honest work. I also felt a growing, gnawing sense of guilt over the fact that I had stolen and revised her name. When the book first came out last year, I meant to send her a copy, but I felt too embarrassed about it. Then, when the paperback came out this year, I was still feeling a bit nervous, but I worked up the nerve to send it to her with a note explaining my name choice. I needn't have worried. She was, in her own words, "stunned and thrilled" and very generous in her response. Yay! This makes me more happy than I can express!