[Originally composed April 2005, revised January 2018]
I'm afraid I can't write much about the origins of my oldest human characters, simply can't remember all the whys and hows of when they walked into my head so many years ago. But I can explain some names.
Geren: Ah, that's easy. I loved the sound of Tolkien's 'Beren' and Mercedes Lackey's 'Keren' and 'Teren' from her Arrows trilogy (read in 1993 or 1994, methinks). From there I just ran it through the alphabet for a first letter and settled on 'G.' Besides a slight similarity, as I'd imagined Beren as dark-haired back then (until I got volume 12 of the HOME books and learned otherwise--dismayingly invalidating every picture of Beren I'd ever drawn) so there was some similarity in my original conception of Geren to Beren...though he had a dash of Teren too, I think.
Copper: I think he started out with two chief traits. The friendly redhead, and the second would be a book spoiler. Back then, I was thinking of having the more 'pro-Dominion' sorts (not that Copper is pro-Dominion, but that's how he was raised) have names based on things of the earth, to go with their Goddess worshiping. It never felt right and was eventually abandoned, which left me with a need to explain why one character alone had a name more fitting the sorts of names the animals ended up receiving in my writing, which made an excuse for more backstory for Copper! The name choice was a funny parallel: copper is a reddish metal that fits his hair color, but it's also the name of my mom's (now long deceased) Australian Shepherd that I loathed passionately for years. It think it was a bit of a surprise to my parents to have a 'good guy' in the books with the name of Copper!
A side note--not until I was halfway through the first Geren book did I come up with 'Dominion' and 'Separatists.' Before then, it was 'Empire' and 'Rebels,' but that sounded way too Star Wars rip-off for me, so I always knew I'd be changing it.
Llao: That's easy too. The college library (where I did work-study my college years) had a shelf of recently published books/bestsellers and the like--an escape from the academic nonfiction/literature that overran the rest of the place. Thanks to that shelf I discovered both Terry Brooks and David Eddings, I believe. Well, at some point they had a book there called 'The Tao of Pooh.' I never read it, but I remember really liking the look of 'Tao,' so I incorporated it into the name of 'the grumpy mage,' which was Llao's description in my mind. I heartily disliked Llao all through the first Geren book, and it wasn't until I conjured up a little pity for him ('Winter' chapter, I believe) that he started talking to me. Somewhere between April and September of 2001 was when I found out his story.
Adya: Not so clear on this one...I think it is a variant of Aida, not because of events in that story, but simply that I liked the look/sound. Her defining characteristic was taken directly from me: her hopeless but unrelenting passion for the Defender (though my own passion that I modeled it off was not for the Defender, just to clarify)...but her fearlessness/bravado is a complete opposite. I would love to be more like her!
Arun: Simple. In college, spotted the name as some guy being quoted in an newspaper or magazine article. Loved the look of it, and chose it for the Defender's human incognito. I already knew by 1998, when I wrote 'Reunion,' how stubborn he was in the use of that name...which begged the question, why? By the time I got my first cat in 2000 and named him Arun, I knew I was naming him after three individuals of that name: the mage Arun, Hileko's cat Arun...and the trapper Arun, first and foremost. Obviously, the name Arun is widespread among Defender-friendly humans, and not favored by the Goddess' followers. (And can even prove dangerous, as it did for Renell's son.)
Tarek: Well, Tarek came along quite a bit later than the others...late 2001, I think. By then I had a fair selection of names already, and had observed that the hyarmi-friendly and Creator-revering humans tended to have lots of names derived from Hu-Harek. Irek, Lirek, Jerek, and the like. As in the case of Geren, I just ran through the alphabet for a first letter, and landed on 'Tarek.'
Evael: This was fun. Since Geren is suspicious of him for some time, the similarity to 'evil' is notable, but he was actually named for Heruvael.
Ilka: I remember this one. Any number of the Goddess' servants have their names start with 'Ilk' or 'Il' because of the influence of their most (in)famous and powerful high priestess. But her name I derived from the Russian figure skater Ilia Kulik.
As for Daresh, Jajey, Ganil, Felir, Kiran, and others, I don't have any strong memories or associations of where the names came from. Timred was always the name for a villain, but in the earliest plans for the first Geren book he was a smith who was interested in Yava/Ilyava while she lived in Princeburg.
My passion revolves around my Geren novels and events during the Defender's lifetime. But a quick note for the Triune novels can be added. I chose some names to be antecedants of names in Geren's time. Tarish evolves down through the centuries into Daresh on the one hand, and Tarek on the other. Commander Felin's name is remembered through Felir and Ferill. And Triumvir Ginren's name is the predecessor of the name Geren.