Wednesday Confidential: Book Titles

Welcome to a new website feature. I originally called it “whatever Wednesday” because it’s going to be…whatever. Usually behind-the-scenes stuff from books, snippets from works in progress, discussions like the ones from the old Preternatura “shop talk” feature, books I’m reading. In other words, whatever.

Today, because I’m working on Sentinels #5, BELLE CHASSE, I’ll talk a little belle chasse-wednesday blog artbit about book titles. I’m sure different authors have different methods of coming up with titles, but I usually have the title in place before I start writing the book. Sometimes the titles are obscure to the reader but make sense to me. The publisher always has final say on the title, but I’ve never had one flat-out say I couldn’t use the title I chose. Well, so far at least.

They’ve gone something like this…

ROYAL STREET. This was always the name of my first book, and while there are a couple of mentions of the street by that name in the book itself, the title, for me, actually refers to the fact that some of New Orleans “royalty”—the historical undead—play a big role in the book. Louis Armstrong, Jean Lafitte, Marie Laveau in particular. And of course, Jean Lafitte, who in the original manuscript was planned for one scene, sailed through the door and refused to leave. And aren’t we glad?

RIVER ROAD. Also was the name of the book from the conception onward. There is a River Road in New Orleans so we’re keeping with the street-name theme, but of course the novel is about the Mississippi River and the River Styx, so there’s a play on words there as well.

ELYSIAN FIELDS. Again, this one was named from the outset, even though Elysian Fields Avenue in New Orleans doesn’t factor into the novel. But Elysian Fields, in mythology, is the final resting place of the souls of heroes. And while one of the historical undead roaming through the book is far from a hero, another one is very much the hero. You know who I’m talking about

PIRATE’S ALLEY (April 2015). Again, the actual site of Pirate’s Alley only occurs in one scene in the book (a minor one, at that), but everybody’s favorite undead French pirate is at the heart of this book and this has been the title from the outset. Wait until you hear his answer to DJ’s question: “What do I mean to you?” He will make you cry.

BELLE CHASSE (date TBA but hopefully fall 2015). Still working on this one, but I don’t anticipate that Belle Chasse Highway, a major thoroughfare on the westbank of the river, will be in the book. But “Belle Chasse” translates as “Good Hunting,” and some of our favorite characters are being hunted in this book.

How about the Susannah Sandlin novels?

REDEMPTION was originally titled STOCKHOLM, which referred to the name of the town and the question of whether Krys had Stockholm Syndrome or whether she really loved Aidan—and, in the end, did it matter as long as she was happy. As the book transitioned through revisions away from that question and more into the romance realm, I changed the town’s name from Stockholm to Penton and the title applied, instead, to Aidan’s journey as he sought redemption from his past.

ABSOLUTION was the title of Mirren’s book from the beginning. He was the darkest character I’d written to that point…in some ways he and Will are still the darkest characters…and he is definitely seeking absolution.

OMEGA is a title I wish I could change. It was originally intended to be the final book in the series, but by the time I finished it, I realized that there was a character arc with Cage and Melissa that I wanted to explore. So Omega was supposed to be the end, as well as the name of the underground facility the town moved into. If I were to retitle it, I’d find something that fit Will’s journey to self-acceptance.

ALLEGIANCE was a mystery to me. It went by the sexy name of “Penton 4” until the bitter end, when you, the readers, stepped in to suggest titles. But it very much fits Cage’s journey in this book.

As Penton segues into a new phase (more on this later, I’m still considering the details), I’m not sure what direction it will go. Only that Nik needs his story told and Aidan and Krys need closure.

LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP was the title of this book from the moment I came up with the idea of Knights Templar treasure lost in a shipwreck. It’s from the poem “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.

DEADLY, CALM, AND COLD was a very late title in coming, and my editor was a huge help with it. It needed to go along with LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP, and I had originally wanted to use another line from the same Robert Frost poem, “The Darkest Evening of the Year.” There was already a high-profile book (a Dean Koontz title) by that name, however, so I jokingly called this manuscript “The Little Horse Must Think It Queer” for the longest time (also a line from the Frost poem). Once we got to the last-possible second, though, my editor and I bounced ideas back and forth until we came up with the final.

So that’s the story behind the names! Anything surprise you? Leave a comment for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card.

23 thoughts on “Wednesday Confidential: Book Titles

  1. I have learned a lot about NOLA since starting the Sentinels series, and following Preternatura. Have New Orleans on the mind today as last night CBS reran two episodes of NCIS, Crescent City Part I & Crescent City Part II. The backdoor pilot episodes for NCIS New Orleans. Lots of wonderful background filmed in New Orleans. Looking forward to this new NCIS series. I hope this will be another Quantum Leap for Scott Bakula, LOL.

    • i’m quite anxious to see this spin off but no stress the time it arrives here i still have one if not two year to wait so you will have to let me know if Scott Bakula is a great team leader^^

    • I can’t wait to watch the new series! I didn’t see the rerun of those pilot episodes but did watch them when they originally ran and I kept saying “Oh, that’s such-and-such.” So many places I recognized. I hope it is a “quantum leap” for Scott Bakula! 🙂

  2. i missed teh fact that “lovely dark and deep” was part of a poem it’s good to know and yes i’m curious about what the next penton title will be;)

    thank you for sharing with us!

    • Yes, I’m not a big Robert Frost reader or anything, but when I was in the eighth grade, we had to memorize a poem and everyone in the class had to stand in front and recite it. I had that poem, so I can still, all these years later, pretty much recite it from memory. And I always loved the lines: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, and I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

  3. When you’re ready for a book titled Shieks of Arabi, call me and I’ll give you a guided tour of my hometown and we’ll do lunch at Rocky & Carlo’s. Ohhhh…! The stories we could tell you!

  4. Always enjoy the inner workings of the writing process. I do like the titles a lot as I feel they fit the stories.

  5. I’m sure you know that the Kowalskis in Tennessee Williams’ A Streecar Named Desire live on Elysian Fields Avenue as well.
    When Blanche arrives at their house she describes her journey in highly metaphorical terms.
    “They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and transfer to one called Cemeteries, and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields!”
    It’s one of my favorite street names ever.

    • You know, I had forgotten that Stanley and Stella lived on Elysian Fields Avenue! I do love that name as well–I always try to take a picture when I’m driving into New Orleans of the big “Exit to Elysian Fields” sign, but driving and picture-taking….not a very good combination.

  6. I have always wonder how the book gets its title. Thanks for the background information. It gives the book more depth to the story.

  7. I just love the way Lovely, Dark and Deep sounds, there’s a nice ring to it 🙂 And Deadly, Calm and Cold sounds even better!!

  8. I didn’t realize that the titles in your Sentinels series were all related to streets/locations! That’s neat 🙂

  9. What an interesting post! I enjoyed hearing how you came up with your titles. Thanks for sharing.