Welcome to my third entry in a row to begin with the letters R and E. R! E! It’s a whole big thing. I am using those letters to begin my titles with a dogged, almost Sesame Street-like devotion. Maybe I should show a bunch of cleavage and sing about prefixes, re: Katie Perry.
See what I did there?
In case you do not read the comments, I have to pause, pre-title-talk, and share this one from Kaye, who chimed in on the whole burning EARS! To pierce or not to pierce? question with the following story:
Many years ago I was an assistant buyer in fashion jewelry for a department store chain. My wonderful and lovely boss did not have pierced ears and made sure we had lots of fashionable clip earrings in our stores.
On one store visit, we were helping a woman find earrings for her mother. We asked if she wanted clip or pierced. She wanted clip. After much time spent looking for the perfect earring in clip, the customer said ‘Oh heck. She is dead. I am sure they can pierce her ears when they do her makeup.’ And she took the pierced earrings.
In horror, my boss grabbed my arm, pulled me into an office and said ‘DO NOT PIERCE MY EARS WHEN I AM DEAD.’
What she said. And let me just get it down now, in public, in writing: Please do not pierce my ANYTHING when I am dead. Thank you.
I am currently on retreat at Myrtle Beach, but I did want to tell you that many happy things have come to pass with the book.
I had taken Heather Cook’s advise in the comments, and I was calling it “TFWIP” which she pronounced like tif-whip and I pronounce as tuh-FWIP, as in get tuh-Fwip out of here! Either way, it means “Title Free Work In Progress.” I can’t call it that anymore. For a couple of reasons. One is, it is not IN PROGRESS. I finished the book.
You have to imagine those words being trumpeted by a host of jubilant angels to understand how they ring in my head. It is the novelist’s most favorite sentence. I. Finished. The. Book. SO it is no longer in PROGRESS. It is in REVISIONS, a MUCH more delightful place to be, according to my draft-hating, revision-loving sensibilities, at least.
Also? It is no longer TITLE FREE. I,of course, did not title it. I have a long history of not titling my works. A brief retrospective.
Titled by: My agent, Jacques de Spoelberch
Source: Phrase appears several times in the book.
My Working Title: Gone to Bones
Rejected because: Just as we went to shop it, a little book—-you may have heard of it—called THE LOVELY BONES was dominating the NYT bestseller list. So.
Titled by: My then editor, Caryn Karmatz Rudy (Who is now an agent.)
Source: My invented version of a real Georgia town is the book’s main setting and a character in itself.
My Working Title: The Refrigerator Border Wars
Rejected because: In the first draft, the book opened when a pack of junkward dogs chased poor, dear, gentle Ginny into an old fridge, and she suffocated, reigniting a dormant feud between two families. But, as the book progressed, I came to realize this OCD lady she would never go into that junkyard anyway, even if she was on FIRE, and more importantly, I needed her ALIVE for the book to work. Also, fictionally rendered suffocating is very dull. You mostly sit in a fridge, in the dark, bored, wondering how much air is left. I liked the title SO much I tried to keep it by wedging a host of looming, hyper-symbolic fridges into various scenes, but it was stupid, and I had to have a Great Refrigerator Cleansing Revision and give up the title.
Titled by: Me.
No, really, who titled it: ME, I said. Seriously. Me.
Source: Literally refers to the ghost of a drowned girl who drives the narrative, but I mostly meant for it to refer figuratively to my main character, Laurel.
Working title: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming. It was always this title. From before I wrote the first word. TGWISS without end, amen.
Titled by: You guys, O My Best Beloveds, particularly Superman’s Mommy.
Source: Since Saints is a companion book for gods in Alabama, and since the main character in Saints is Catholic, I asked my best beloveds to come up with a sexy but not porn-y word to go with Saints, with the same structure as gods in Alabama. As in “Saints in _______.” Superman’s Mommy came up with Saints in the Backseat, which…the cadence was off, but everyone at my pub house agreed that Backseat Saints was perfect.
My Working Title: Texas Rose Red
Rejected because: “I thought you got done with that state name thing two books ago?”
And now TFWIP, my multi-voiced new Southern Gothic tale about sexuality, identity, and redemption set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is no longer IN PROGRESS (Did I mention? I. Finished. The. Book.) and it has a title.
I FREAKING love it. Here tis:
Fondly known as Agukop, pronounced a-GOO-cop, which sounds like a toddler saying someone is a good cop. And one of the main characters, Lawrence, IS a very, very good cop, so. Perfect.
Titled by: Helen Atsma, my new editor
Source: The phrase appears twice in the book. Once in a slightly raunchy, funny scene in chapter one, and then later with darker implications.
My Working Title: In Season
Rejected because: Anne Rivers Siddons had OFF SEASON a couple of seasons ago. Too close.
My Other Working Title: The Other Mosey Slocumb
Rejected because: Half the readers who first saw it didn’t get that Mosey Slocumb is a NAME. It would have worked if her name was Jane Jones. The Other Jane Jones. Like that. So I could either change her NAME or the title, and this girl? She is named Mosey Slocumb and I love her and her name can’t change and that’s all.
The art department is already at work on the cover and me? I am thrilled to have a title I love to go on it and even more thrilled to have a book I am in love with to go inside of it.