Have you ever seen the movie The Green Berets? One of my favorite characters in that movie was Private Provo. Provo noticed that all the people who were killed in action had something on a military installation named for them, and it bothered him terribly that he couldn’t figure out what building would go well with the name Provo. Throughout the movie, Provo worried about what they could name after him because, whatever it was, the name needed to “sing” to him. With his dying breath, he asked John Wayne to take care of that issue for him, and at the end, we see “Provo’s Privy.”
Well, much like Provo, I want the titles of my novels to not only reflect something about the novel, but I also want them to “sing” to me. There are times when I have considered banging my head against the wall in frustration as I try to figure out an appropriate title for a novel. Protecting Parker had the working title of “The Shirt’s Tale.” Several people had made suggestions for titles, but none of them really worked for me. My husband’s niece Heather was the one who came up with Protecting Parker, and from the moment, I saw it, it sang to me.
I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do with my military vampire series. The working title was “Sam’s Story” for the longest time. Eventually, I woke up and smelled the coffee. I was writing the explanation of the Blood Link that is unique to this group of vampires, and there was the title. As I laid out the next books, I called them simply Blood Link Two, Three, and Four, but then one day, I had the reality check that each of these books was about a specific member of the team and the names fell into place. Blood Link II – The Doubter, Blood Link III – The Civilian, and Blood Link IV – The Damaged.
Sadly, that group was the only thing that’s been reasonably easy to title. My next stand-alone book has been untitled since its inception. I often refer to it as “Evie’s Story” based on the lead character’s name or sometimes as “The Genealogist and the ATF Agent.” They are working titles that simply keep me from losing the books in the shuffle. Then a random trip past the Harlequin rack at the bookstore polluted my brain and transported me to a very bad place that I will call “Bad Title Land.” Did they run out of interesting titles? I won’t use the real ones because this isn’t about abusing an individual author who may or may not have had any say in the title. This is about the broader problem of titling a book. But here are some examples that are pretty close to the real ones: Administrative Assistant by Day – Mistress By Night or The Billionaire Heir and the Hot Nanny, The Cowboy CEO and the Secret Baby (it’s not really a secret if you put it on the cover) or Katie and the Cop. I think you get the idea. The books suddenly stopped sounding like romance and a lot more like bad 1970s porn.
At the same time, I get the marketing strategy – you know exactly what you’re getting. No need to waste any of your precious time reading a blurb to find out what the book is about. Now, before you send me hate mail for picking on Harlequin, let me just say that company doesn’t have a corner on the market for bad titles. Many of its titles are actually quite good. Its rack simply happens to be a place where you can see a lot of them in one spot. It’s kind of like a watering hole on the Serengeti. Eventually, every type of animal is going to show up. Some good, some not so good, and some that you never want to see when you don’t have a gun with you.
At that point, finding an appropriate title for Evie became a bit of an obsession. I’d burn the novel before I’d allow my work to be published with the title of “The Genealogist and the ATF Agent.” As my first round of beta readers began to work their way through the book, I asked them to send along any ideas for a title. I’d hit the jackpot with Heather; maybe I’d get lucky again. There were quite a few suggestions. Some were amusing, some were completely inappropriate (my ex-military members are often a crude lot), and a few of them were interesting enough to be worthy of consideration. In the end, I found it myself within the story. A Shared Fear is the title. Simple, effective, and appropriate.
Blood Link and A Shared Fear will be coming out this summer.
pat hogan says
Damn it! one of these days you’re going to take my clever suggestions!
Funny that you have this issue. When I was flirting with the writing bug, I had the title as soon as I had the idea for the story. I don’t think that I ever changed one once it was done.
One last thing. I can’t even go into the romance isle at the book store. The book covers and titles sick me out in a weird erotic sorta way o_O