A Rose by Any Other Name? Book Titles by Debbie Bennett

Book titles either arrive instantly in my head or it takes me forever to tease them out of my subconscious. Sometimes they reflect the actual story; sometimes they suggest a theme or a tone. I’ve used song titles for short stories – The Leaving of Liverpool comes to mind. This was written originally for a competition, the "theme" for which was that stories should have a "strong sense of place", so I wrote about a plot to blow up the Liver Birds and the folk song just seemed to fit (I remember the version done by The Seekers in the 1960s). My YA fantasy Edge of Dreams is about dreaming and how dreams may in fact be other worlds and become just as real as this world.

The title for my thriller Hamelin's Child was one of those that arrived fully-formed. This was more of a theme-title, in that the book is about people-trafficking and the sex-trade. I think it's a strong title and it works, especially in context with a book cover that suggests genre. Its sequel Paying The Piper continues the Pied Piper fairy tale, but also alludes to the different nature of the book as this story is more concerned with aftermath, moving on and finding your own identity. Again it's a strong title - and has been used before for thrillers as I discovered when at least one of the ebook retailers mixed us up. When you dig into the fairy tale/legend of The Pied Piper, it's interesting to note that the man can be seen to represent death, "stealing" the children who die of natural causes, although many other interpretations do have him as some kind of child recruiter/trafficker for various reasons.

There was never meant to be a third book. I think you can have too much of a good thing and I was happy to leave it there and let my main character Michael get on with his life. But so many people have wanted to know what happens next, how Michael resolves his issues and whether or not he manages to have some kind of a happy ending. Well, I don't do walk-off-into-the-sunset happy endings, but I spent some time thinking about where I could take the story that wouldn't be a re-hash of what's gone before (cheating) and yet would remain true to the storyline and believable in the context of the first two books. And off I went...

But a title? What came to mind was something with the word tune in it. And it needed to have the same rhythm. Not necessarily the same number of syllables, but the same style. Something the something or similar, if that makes sense? And the more I thought about, the more I came up with  Calling The Tune. It fits the sequence of titles, ties in with the legend and also conveys the theme of this final book which is about re-taking control of your life.

But Calling The Tune isn't a strong title. Alone, it says nothing. There's no context, no obvious allusion to a legend and no genre. Does it matter? If it was a standalone novel, I think it would matter a lot and I wouldn't use it. I'm not Stephen King, who can sell a novel with a date as a title! But given that anyone who considers buying/reading it is more than likely to have read the first two books first, the connection will already be there. Add a book cover that conveys genre (and also follows the "brand" of the first two books) and I think it will work.

Now all I have to do is finish writing it. The new landlady of my local pub wants to launch it at a big event for me. No pressure, then...



Jan Ruth said…
Interesting post Debbie, I am much the same with titles. With my first book, my then editor pointed out that Under Offer was a naff title for the style of the book ( I was a bit miffed, naturally) but her suggestion of Wild Water unwittingly began a theme for me which I am now very grateful for.

I like the third title very much, Calling the Tune is a brilliant fit with the other two, and knowing a little about the premise I think it's a good choice.

* I've Just started reading Paying the Piper and thoroughly enjoying the transportation back to Michaels world.
JO said…
Oh, titles - I find them the hardest part of writing. You think you've found the right one, ask friend A, no, it's rubbish; friend B says it's wonderful. Try again, and friend B looks patient and kindly says she preferred the first one ... if anyone knows how to bypass the pain of choosing titles, please share it!
madwippitt said…
oooh a pub launch - fab!
glitter noir said…
I'll be there for the pub launch--just have a carrot juice waiting. Interesting thing about titles: sometimes they work quietly. Over the years, the title of my first Kelley Wilde book, The Suiting, has won its share of praise. But the title came to me with a sense of correctness about it. It didn't seem strange to me at all. I had less luck several times with titles that I worked at. The best ones show up and say, 'Honey, I'm home.'

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