Catherine Gayle Finds the Perfect Title
Posted by Caren Crane Nov 2 2012, 12:23 am
I am happy to introduce to you a new friend and local RWA chapter-mate. Banditas and Bandita Buddies, please help me welcome Catherine Gayle to the Lair! Catherine is a prolific writer of fun and frolicsome Regency-set historicals. She is with us today to talk about an aspect of writing that reader’s don’t usually hear much about: choosing the perfect title. Catherine has a new release coming out in the next few days and she claims she thought of the clever title long before she thought of the plot.
So Catherine, tell us about this fantastic title idea you had and how it came about…
There’s something special, when you write novels, about finding the perfect title. We get great story ideas all the time — ideas that lend themselves well to having 80,000-100,000 words written about them in order to convey the entire thing to the reader. But then we (or the editor, or the marketing team at the publishing house, or someone) get the lovely task of taking those 80,000-100,000 word novels, from which we couldn’t possibly eliminate a single word, and condensing all of that down into a short, memorable title.
That’s right, we have to somehow sum up the entire display of our genius, those perfect 400 pages, in a brief phrase that sparkles and shines. Something that everyone and their dog will see and say, Wow! I’ve got to read that book. Something with pizzazz: something so perfect you know Hollywood will be beating down the door for the film rights. Something filled with such sheer brilliance, it is inconceivable it won’t end up on the USA Today and New York Times Bestseller Lists as the be-all and end-all that means You Have Arrived.
All of the above is to preface the following: I am not very good at coming up with titles.
I tend to labor over them. And even when I have a title for a book, I’m not always (read: pretty much never) completely satisfied with it. So occasionally, I’ll try again, and again, and maybe a third or fourth or seventy-eighth time, until I find something that I can kind of halfway stand. Generally, then, I stick with it. My title may not be perfect, but it is the best I can do. So I suck it up and deal with it. Because I have a title.
But then there was this one time when the title came to me as perfect as could be — so perfect I never even dreamed of changing it.
I tend to spend a bit of time (*ahem, cough, cough, that would be WAY too much time*) on Twitter. One day, while I was avoiding writing a scene in my then-current WIP, someone I follow (actually, one of my critique partners) Tweeted about a book coming out called SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN.
Now, that’s not a particularly unique title, but it got my brain churning. In title terms, I’ve always been a sucker for a play on words. I write historical romances, so I love titles that take modern phrases, then turn them on their heads to make something different. And, since I write novels set in Regency England, my mind automatically turns to things related to that particular time and place.
When I read the Tweet, fireworks exploded. Angels sang in the heavens. Snoopy danced a jig with Schroeder playing in the background. (You can totally hear the Peanuts theme right now, can’t you? It’s going to be with you ALL DAY. Sorry.) I had it—that glorious, much sought after but rarely discovered Perfect Title: SEVEN MINUTES IN DEVON. (Listen closely…you can probably still hear the angels—but now they’re singing the Peanuts theme.) And by the way, if you disagree with me and feel this is NOT the Perfect Title, please humor me. For now. Tomorrow can be a different story, when I’m not here.)
Perfect Title: check! The only problem with this perfect title? I didn’t have a story for it. Nothing. Nada.
I was in the midst of writing a series and didn’t have time to veer off into the discovery phase and start something new. So I put my Perfect Title in my title ideas file and told myself if an idea ever came along, I had the title. (Like I could ever forget that title! Bwah. Really.)
I tried to let it sit in the file, but I couldn’t let it just sit there. I couldn’t. I tried, and succeeded for about ten seconds — but I couldn’t leave it alone. Instead, I put my then-current WIP aside, pulled out all of my planning tools and set to work.
Devon was a given as my setting. But seven minutes? What could be significant enough about seven minutes to warrant such prominent positioning in THE Perfect Title?
I started throwing ideas around. What happens in seven minutes? Well, sex is an obvious answer to that question. (Seven minutes might be a little long, sometimes…) But that was the problem. It was too obvious. I’m not much of an erotica writer, either, so that didn’t quite cut the mustard. Scratch that one.
Car crashes happen a lot faster than that, but I write in the Regency era and there were no cars. There were carriages. I could have a bad carriage accident. But it didn’t feel right. It felt overdone. Scratch.
I thought about a seven minute long marriage. Um…that was just weird. Scratch. What about an argument? Bo-ring! Scratch.
I went through this process over and over, until all of a sudden I had an image in my head. It was a woman in a river, and she was drowning.
Hmm. Now I had something to play with. Granted, I didn’t know who she was or why she was drowning in the river, but I had something to go on. So I kept exploring the ideas that came to me, one after the other, until I had the impetus for my next release.
SEVEN MINUTES IN DEVON will be out next week.
Catherine, we can hardly wait to hear how that drowning woman got into the river. Do tell us more!
During a minutes-long span three years ago, lives were forever changed when Lady Morgan Cardiff nearly drowned.
Returning to the disastrous scene for the first time, Emma Hathaway is older, wiser — and ready to move on. With her parents’ health in quick decline, she needs a husband. Alas, she is an awkward, bookish girl with no dowry to recommend her, and she is far from being an Incomparable or an heiress who might rouse a gentleman’s interest. Her hopes of changing the ton’s view of her are dashed upon the arrival of the others involved in that life-altering accident. Aidan Cardiff’s glares prove he blames Emma for his sister Morgan’s scarred, blinded condition. His unfounded hatred leaves Emma shaken, but his unbidden romantic advances threaten to thwart her essential husband-hunt.
Ever since his sister’s failed attempt to take her own life, Aidan Cardiff has been a bitter, brooding artist. He’s spent three years creating artwork depicting the revenge he’d like to exact against anyone who can be blamed for Morgan’s pervasive melancholy. Yet his art has done nothing to assuage the rage he’s built inside. His sister is finally ready to live again, but Aidan fears letting her out of his sight — particularly with Emma Hathaway, whose very existence sets his blood to boiling. But is the heat he feels for Emma due solely to his anger, or is there something more?
It certainly sounds like you found a thrilling plot to fit your Perfect Title, Catherine. I can hardly wait to find out how Aidan and Emma work things out!
Now it’s your turn, dear Readers. Have you ever, like Catherine, found yourself doing things in reverse or inside out? Does it work out, or do you wish you’d done it the normal way by the time it’s all over with?
Be sure to join the conversation and let us know. Catherine will give away 2 digital copies of SEVEN MINUTES IN DEVON to winners in a random draw (to be delivered upon the release). You can find out more about Catherine and her books at her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter where the whole business began!
Posted in alpha hero, attempted suicide, Caren Crane, Catherine Gayle, drowning woman, guest blogger, historical romance, perfect title, prizes, protective brother, Regency romance, suicidal sister, tormented artist