Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Working titles (and titles that don't. Work, that is.)

My most recent novel, The Girls with Games of Blood, was the first one to hit shelves with my title on it.

I'm not complaining, mind you. Titles are funny things, and they have to be balanced between appropriateness, marketability and simple comprehension. But I thought I'd describe the titling process as I've experienced it, since I've just settled on a working title (The Two Eddies) for my fourth Eddie LaCrosse novel. Keep in mind, though, that the whole point of this post is that the book may very well come out under a different (and hopefully better) title in 2012.

My first novel, The Sword-Edged Blonde, spent two decades under the simple title, Rhiannon. Yes, after the Fleetwood Mac song. And the Welsh legend which provided the original inspiration, and survives in the story if you dig deep enough. But my editor at Night Shade Books requested a different title because he felt the original one was too Fleetwood Mac-y. Since it was my first novel sale and I wasn't about to do anything to jeopardize it, I agreed and began listing alternate titles that combined pulp noir sensibilities with something recognizably high-fantasy (like the book itself). Between my editor and agent, I narrowed it down until we all agreed on The Sword-Edged Blonde. It catches the tone, and to me symbolizes the character of Rhiannon in the story (she is blonde and she does have two sides, or edges, to her personality).

My next novel, Blood Groove, started with the working title Oceans of Time. At that stage I hadn't settled on a 70s setting. When I did, I chose a phrase from Parliament/Funkadelic as the new title: Sadistic Groovalistic. Yeah, I know. Cooler heads, notably my agent, gently suggested a different title, something that didn't sound like a twelve-year-old made it up (that's my evaluation, not hers). Again various alternatives were considered, until she said, "I'm going to shop this under the title Blood Groove." To this day I prefer the title Blood Funky, but I can't argue with her wisdom, since the book got out there under her title.

The second Eddie LaCrosse book, Burn Me Deadly, was originally titled Lumina, after one of its characters. After the first novel established its precedent, it was a snap to come up with a new title for book two, tweaked from Mickey Spillane's Kiss Me Deadly. Everyone liked it, including me.

But I think I've gotten better at it. As I said, The Girls with Games of Blood was entirely mine, and the third Eddie LaCrosse novel, Dark Jenny, never had a different title. If there's a third vampire book, my title is Blood Will Rise (or Blood Will Rise Again, perhaps). I don't know if The Two Eddies will end up on the cover of Eddie LaCrosse's fourth adventure, or if the manuscript will even leave my desk with that title. But I have to call it something other than Eddie 4.

That is, unless I can figure out a way for him to fight Ivan Drago....


Kelly Bryson said...

I have to say that I love your titles. I didn't initially get Blood Groove as referring to music, I was thinking a channel with blood in it, but when I got it, I smiled. Eww.

Amber White said...

What first attracted me to your novels was your funky, clever titles. So true that it is unbelievably difficult to find the perfect title. When it finally happens it seems like it is born rather than invented.