Titles are a bit of a process for me. I want to love the name of my book, of course, and it also has to pass muster with the smart people responsible for selling it.
With both books I’ve experienced days of “title fever”—when all I do is google song lyrics and phrases and idioms and quotations. And annoy people because I’m constantly interrupting perfectly lovely conversations with, “How about [proposed horrible title]? No? Really? Okay, how about [even worse one]?”
The holy grail is something that is both short (there’s something magical about three words, if you can stick to that) and sticky (i.e., having a quality that causes it to lodge in your brain.)
For your amusement, here’s a tour through the title-making factory:
THE LOVE WARS . . .
Started in life as PUTTING ASUNDER. When I got my agent, agent suggested I change it because it was inaccessible and when spoken sounded like “putting us under.” Excellent point.
Before submission, it was changed to PAYNE OF LOVE, which was rejected after my editor bought it because it was forgettable, I think? And too confusing with that spelling (which matched the name of the law firm where Molly Grant works).
After a few mad days of round robin emails and brainstorming my editor and I changed it to . . . THE LOVE AND WAR DIARIES. We all liked this much better and then at the copy editing stage, my editor and publisher asked whether it could be shortened. They were right as always (see below), and with a few chops . . .voila, the much improved, in my opinion . . .
THE LOVE WARS
THE NEVER NEVER SISTERS
Early on, it was Confessions of Paige Turner. I never even attempted to share that one with my editor and in fact, cringe a little typing it. This is the factory tour, though, so . . .full disclosure.
Then, it was ON THE BLINK and BLIND SPOT because the book explores quite a bit the line between truth and perception. I don’t remember which was first, but neither one really fit the tone of the book.
The first real contender was KNOW WHAT I KNOW. Both my editor and I loved this one. (Still do.) But I worried it was too vague and so a part of my mind kept working on other titles.
Next up: FIRST DAYS OF SUMMER, which is when the book takes place. I love the word summer—so evocative—but when people asked me the name of my book, I kept forgetting, which didn’t seem the best indicator of stickiness.
So, we discussed THE ESCAPE PLAN, which works great for the story, but . . . there was an action movie coming out with the same name. I kept picturing a shirtless Sly Stallone with an uzi, one arm around each nervous Reinhardt sister on that lovely beach.
Finally, I asked my editor about THE NEVER SISTERS. (As is probably clear by now, my editor has the patience of a saint.)
It fits perfectly—the book is about two estranged sisters—and once it popped in my head, it stuck. My editor and publisher loved it and thought to add the second NEVER. Even better! The nod toward never never land gave me chills, because there are some Peter Pan references in the book.
What do you think? Did we do okay?