Someone asked a question about titles on my Facebook page a few days ago, and it struck me that I could talk at some length on the subject. Titles are the bane of my life, and I would be willing to bet that most writers feel the same way. I have lost sleep over titles. I have sometimes suggested calling a book The Great American (or Canadian or British) Novel, but I have not yet found an editor who will take me up on it. The title of a book needs to have some relevance to the story, and ideally it ought to be both original and eye-catching. Perhaps it also should indicate what type of book the reader can expect. Titles like Simply Love, One Night for Love, and A Secret Affair, for example, pretty well advertise themselves as love stories.
My own choice of title is not often the one that appears on the cover of the book. Usually I don’t mind–the title I give most books is only a working title, marginally better than sending the finished manuscript in without any title at all. I can’t remember what I originally called the first of the Bedwyn books, but it was rejected. After weeks of back and forth, my editor finally suggested Slightly Married and I loved it. I was working on Book 3 at the time and immediately came back with, “Oh, and Slightly Scandalous would suit the book I am writing now.” I can’t remember which of us came up with Slightly Wicked for Book 2, but it was all decided within five minutes–three books named, and the next three books made easy. All we had to do was come up with one word for each that could be put with Slightly—Tempted, Sinful, Dangerous.
Sometimes I have been more dubious about losing my own title. Almost a Gentleman became The Proposal. I like the present title, but I was partial to my own too. The Man Called Rebecca became Truly, and that title was imposed upon me while I was away in Wales for six weeks–no internet in those days and little chance of communication. I have always disliked that title. It says precisely nothing and could be made to apply to every book ever written. It is the one title I may be tempted to change when the book is republished, though I have always sworn that I would not change any of my titles and confuse readers even more than they already are by a change of cover.
I have been happy to keep a few of my own titles. I can remember a few fellow Regency authors assuring me at one conference that my title Lady with a BLack Umbrella would not stand, but it did. I don’t think there is much chance that anyone will duplicate that one! And I would have been willing to fight for my title Longing if there had been any suggestion of changing it. It was my precious Welsh book, and the word is a translation of the Welsh “hiraeth,” which means the type of longing or yearning (often for home or a spiritual home) that goes soul-deep in most of us. It is the title of a Welsh song that must be one of the most beautiful ever composed and figures in the book, sung by a male voice choir. The title stayed. That book is already scheduled to be republished, by the way, probably in 2015. A Summer to Remember was my own title. I expected it to change, but it was kept. It really suits the story, and I hope it a book to remember as it started the whole train of Slightly and Simply books.
Sometimes (rarely) titles come easily. They sum up the whole book, or they are there in a key phrase of the book. In the one I have just finished, for example, the hero waltzes with the heroine in the first chapter because he expects her to have some sensible conversation. He even tells her so–and then they proceed to dance in silence. At the end of it he tells her that she is not sensible after all but only enchanting. The title of that book is Only Enchanting!
And sometimes titles can be mixed up and cause endless confusion. At the beginning of the recently published The Arrangement, my next book is correctly identified as The Escape. The teaser chapter at the back of the book, however, calls it by its original title The Affair. Please note that Book 3 of the Survivors’ Club series, Sir Benedict Harper’s story, due out at the end of May, 2014, is THE ESCAPE.
To one person who leaves a comment here before the end of next Tuesday, September 10, I will send a signed advance reading copy of A SUMMER TO REMEMBER. I have discovered a little pile of them still in my basement. And, I’ll throw in a copy of the anthology BESPELLING JANE AUSTEN–four paranormal novellas based loosely on four Austen novels. Mine is a reincarnation story based on PERSUASION. Last week’s winner was Sheila Hudnall.