Monday, November 16, 2009

Someone Else's Titling Woes

This interview with Michelle Huneven, author of a new novel called Blame, is interesting (and the book sounds great!), but I was particularly intrigued by this (sadly familiar) tale of titling woes:

OLIVAS: Choosing a title for a novel can be both exhilarating and exasperating. The one word title of your novel is unflinching, almost accusatory. How did you decide upon it? Can you share with us some titles that didn’t make it?

HUNEVEN: This was the hardest title to find!

I started writing the book thinking that one of the key characters would have a part time job giving scrapbooking workshops and selling scrapbooking supplies—such people are sometimes called “memory consultants.” So the original title was, The Memory Consultant. But then the character never became a scrapbooker, and I didn’t have a title.

When I finished the draft I sent to my agent, I had the most spineless title—After All, I think. I don’t really remember. I knew it was terrible, but wanted something on the title page. My agent, who has since retired, suggested Patsy’s Fault, which had resonance, but I found a little too jaunty for the book. A close friend, also a novelist, suggested Blame, and that’s how the book went out to publishers. After she bought the book, my editor Sarah Crichton wanted a title that was a little less thematically pointed. We looked long and hard for something else. I had all my friends helping, or trying to. For All She Knew was one contender, but I could never remember it, and if I couldn’t remember the title of my own book, how would other people recall it long enough to get to the bookstore? Another contender was Patsy MacLemoore, but to me it was a little too Olive Kitteridge-ish—same syllabic count. Blame was memorable. It may not be the very best title for this book, but after months of searching (and I paged through the Bible, most of Shakespeare, not to mention Yeats, Stevens, Bishop, and Rumi...) and boring my friends to death, I came up empty handed. By then, my editor had decided that Blame was the best and only title for the book.

Read on here.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.