Sometimes a book title comes to you like a thunder bolt. My novel Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust was like that. I knew the title before I wrote a single word. The only downside to this title is that it’s really long. I have said this mouthful thousand of times, and it never really trips off my tongue.
Sometimes I have an entire book, and no title. This is usually my predicament. How to encapsulate all my ideas and lure in a reader in a few short words? The working title of my forthcoming book (Spring 2017) was Feast. I wanted a short title after Lauren Yanofsky, and Feast summed up both a plot element at the end of the book, and a concept the main character was moving toward. My editor, however, felt it was lacking, and since she always has good judgement, I went on a title search. Next I thought to call the book Crave, but there are many books with that title, mostly of the bodice-ripper variety. After some soul searching, re-writing and wordplay, I found the book’s true title, The Most Dangerous Thing. It’s not too long, nor too common, and it sums up the book perfectly. (If you’re wondering just what is the most dangerous thing, you’ll have to wait a little.)Currently I’m looking for a title for an adult book I’ve written that spans twenty-five years of a woman’s life. It’s about love and loss and mothers and the way some people have to make a new family if they’ve lost their first one. The book has over the years I’ve been writing it been called: Open Your Heart, (un)Lucky, and It’s Better To Go On Long Walks. Each of these has spoken to some aspect of the book, but has been rejected for various reasons. Open your Heart was too common, (un)Lucky was well, unlucky, and The Long Walk title too glib. None of them really spoke to the heart of the book either. In desperation (and amusement) I tried using an online book title generator. This resulted in: Lonely Japan Boy, The Seven Angels, Gift in the Crying, The Acceptance Ring, Dragon in the Planet, and my personal favourite The Legacy of the Potter! Some of these aren't bad, but they've got nothing to do with my book!
I’ve spent most of my long bike rides this summer trying to unearth the book’s true title, but a talk with my friend Robbie finally sent me in the right direction. I haven't nailed it down yet, but I think I'm getting closer. Possible options are Finding Home, Swing on a Star, Back to Belonging, Away and Home, and Someone to Dance With. Readers, if you have strong opinions about these, let me know! I seek advice!
So what makes a good title? I like an usual combination of words like Hideous Kinky, Their Eyes Were Watching God and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The Cat’s Table also intrigues me. But I’m also equally happy with titles like Home and The Road Home. Perhaps I just love these last two books (by Marilynne Robinson and Rose Tremain) and don’t really care about the title. I imagine so. Books with two word titles that are easy to say, and remember, yet slightly unusual like Deborah’s Levy’s Hot Milk and Midnight's Children are what I aim for. With that in mind, I’m thinking of calling my next two books Rock Me Tight and The Tree Lover.