Author Brian J. Morra

How I Choose the Names of my Fictional Characters

Feb 26, 2022

I’m often asked how I choose the names of my fictional characters.  In the case of The Able Archers, people have asked me how I chose the names of the two protagonists, the American Kevin Cattani, and the Russian Ivan Levchenko

I chose Kevin Cattani’s name for the following reasons:

  • My own first name is Celtic.  My last name (Morra) is Italian and it’s also a common name in Spain (Mora).  I chose Kevin as the American officer’s first name due to its Celtic origin and to honor a first cousin of mine,  Kevin Pecca, who died at age 41.  He and I were born a few days apart and we were close as children.
  • The surname Cattani honors my maternal grandmother (also Kevin Pecca’s grandmother).  Cattani was her maiden name.  She was Luxembourgish.  Her father, Jean-Baptiste Cattani, was from an established bourgeois family in Nice, France.  Monsieur Cattani was a mining engineer who was hired by my great-great grandfather to manage mines in southern Luxembourg.  Cattani married his boss’s daughter – my great-grandmother.  My family still has ties with our cousins in Luxembourg.


I chose Ivan Levchenko’s name for the following reasons:

  • I thought it would be a relatively easy name for English-speaking readers to navigate.
  • His first name – Ivan – is ‘easy’, as are his Russian and Ukrainian diminutives (Vanya and Vanko, respectively).
  • The surname Levchenko is the surname of a Soviet defector I knew and worked with in the mid-1980s.  He began his career as a GRU officer and transferred to the KGB.   He was fluent in a couple of Asian languages.  My Levchenko is fluent in several European languages.  Like my character, the real Levchenko had reddish hair and often sported a red moustache.
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