My dear Lady Kathryn of the Nutstrewn Neighbourhoods and Squirrel Lands, it’s wonderful to be guest blogging here at The Nut Press about my forthcoming release, The Untied Kingdom. Shamefully, I have just realised that the book contains absolutely no squirrels whatsoever, but just in case you think I’m being anti-squirrel, I will add that apart from the occasional horse, there aren’t any other animals either. Well, not unless you count the snakelike villain or the doglike devotion of the hero’s sidekick.

A sidekick, I hear you say? (I have very good hearing). What sort of book has a sidekick? Well, this sort…

The portal to an alternate world was the start of all her troubles – or was it?

When Eve Carpenter lands with a splash in the Thames, it’s not the London or England she’s used to. No one has a telephone or knows what a computer is. England s a third world country and Princess Di is still alive. But worst of all, everyone thinks Eve’s a spy.

Including Major Harker who has his own problems. His sworn enemy is looking for a promotion. The general wants him to undertake some ridiculous mission to capture a computer, which Harker vaguely envisions running wild somewhere in Yorkshire.

Turns out the best person to help him is Eve. She claims to be a popstar. Harker doesn’t know what a popstar is, although he suspects it’s a fancy foreign word for spy . Eve knows all about computers, and electricity. Eve is dangerous. There’s every possibility she’s mad.

And Harker is falling in love with her.

You might notice from the above blurb that my hero, Major Harker, doesn’t appear to have a first name. This is a cunning trick of mine to hide his first name from you until you read the book, but be assured, he does have one.

Yet why haven’t I mentioned it? Well, because there are only two people in the book who use his first name, and that’s only a handful of times each. Those two people are his ex-wife, and his heroine, Eve. But rather like TS Eliot’s Old Possum, he prefers a certain form of address.

(You bow, and taking off your hat, address him in this way: O Cat!)

Most people call him Harker, or address him as Major. Even his best friend—oh, all right, sidekick–calls him Sir to his face, even while he addresses her by her given name. I got to wondering why, and I realised that while he’s easy in her company, she can’t ever quite forget that he’s her commanding officer. Harker considers Charlie to be not just his closest ally but his friend; she considers him to be the best officer she’s ever served under. She uses his title as a way of maintaining a professional distance between them.

Even the two women who’ve had the most impact on his life, his ex-wife Saskia and his heroine Eve, rarely call him by his first name. Harker is simply the name everyone knows him by, because that’s the way he’s addressed as a soldier, and being a soldier is such a huge part of who he is that there’s little left for anything else. Probably the last person to call him anything else was his mother; since he joined the army he’s just been Harker.

On occasion, when he’s pretending not to be Major Harker, he will go by his first name and nothing else. He does it to hide, because to him, that’s not who he really is. And on the flip side, when he wants to intimidate or bamboozle someone, he’ll offer you a salute so sharp it makes you check for blood, and introduce himself as Major Harker of the 75th of Foot, at your service, ma’am.

Only people who’ve got very close to him ever call him by his first name, and even then it’s only in times of stress or intimacy. They use it to get his attention, to signal to him that what they’re saying is really important, and only a fool would ignore it. And they use his name to remind him how close they are, and how well they know him. The first time Saskia does it she’s putting aside her personal quarrels with him to tell him something important. The first time Eve does it, she’s letting him see how important he’s become to her.

As for Eve, hardly anyone has any compunction about using her first name, least of all Harker. Why? Eve’s a civilian, and she’s under a lot of suspicion, and by using her first name Harker is reinforcing that Eve isn’t someone he has to impress or show any respect to. He doesn’t consider her to be his social superior. Harker, a working-class lad from the North, defiantly refuses to consider anyone his social superior, although he accepts the hierarchy of the army.

To those who admire or respect Eve, or consider themselves her social inferior, she’s simply addressed as Miss. On occasion, the other characters call her Miss Carpenter, generally when they’re being over-formal, in that specially cold way we British have of politing someone to death.

So how do you address people you know? You can probably think of at least one close friend or family member you use a nickname or diminutive with—and I bet, like me, you do it on purpose to show how close you are!

To most people I’m known as Kate, to people who know me mostly online I’m K8, to a few who know me as my erotica-writing alter-ego I’m Cat, which is the name I’d have chosen for myself if I could (and hey, I did!). Only people who enjoy physical pain call me Katie more than once. I’m frequently warned that one day I will be known solely as Crazy Cat Lady (a prospect that doesn’t fill me with half as much dread as it used to).

What would you like to be known as? Do you like being addressed by your normal name, does a nickname annoy you, or would you, like my Master of the Universe cat Spike, prefer something more formal? His Most Spikalicious King Spike of Spikington and I invite you to comment upon the subject, in return for which you’ll be in with a chance of winning a copy of The Untied Kingdom. Leave a comment by midnight (GMT) on Thursday 10th March, 2011.

Kate is a prolific writer of romantic and paranormal fiction. Born in 1982, Kate is Choc Lit’s youngest author and lives near Stansted. She is a self-confessed fan of Terry Pratchett, whose fantasy fiction has inspired her to write her own books. Kate worked in an airport and a laboratory before escaping to write fiction full time. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and has previously published short stories in the UK and romantic mysteries in the US. She’s a previous winner of the WisRWA’s Silver Quill and Passionate Ink’s Passionate Plume award.

Her UK debut novel The Untied Kingdom has had rave reviews from everyone who has read the manuscript. This eagerly awaited novel will be published in April 2011 by Choc Lit. You can pre-order it from Amazon UK or The Book Depository. To find out more about Kate, check out her Author WebsiteKate’s Blog or Follow Kate on Twitter.