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The Quill Blog

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What's in a Name?

Samantha here asking the Quills: How do you select a book title? 


Here's MK McClintock's response.


In a myriad of ways, but for my historical books, I often use a character’s surname.


For my historical Montana Gallagher series, each title of the first four books has the name “Gallagher” in it. The fifth book has the name of the ranch where the Gallaghers live. For my historical British Agent series, I went with the names or surnames of main characters: Alaina Claiborne, Blackwood Crossing, Clayton’s Honor. I do this largely because it often helps the book titles remain unique, which means there is less chance of another book being out there with the same title. I might also use a series name in the title, like with my Crooked Creek stories, where every title includes the name of the town.


For my contemporary books, written under McKenna Grey, the process is different, especially for the Kyndall Family Thrillers. I went with the metaphors and hidden meanings for those titles. It took more time to come up with them because I had to make sure the book contained elements that would lead them back to the title. In the case of that series, I came up with all of the titles first and have built the stories from there.


With my process, the titles almost always come before the story idea. Only twice, that I recall, have I ever changed the title after I started writing the book. As to how I come up with names to get to those titles . . . that’s a whole other process.


I put a lot of thought into book titles, but not as much thought into why I put the thought into it. How’s that for a tongue twister. It’s simply my process, as I’m sure it is for most authors.

Next up is Kimberly Lewis with her answer.


For me, selecting a book title can be harder than actually writing.

One book in particular that I had an extremely hard time naming was What’s Left of Me. In the original story line, Cole Sullivan was a firefighter (instead of a Marine) so I played around with a few ideas and tossed out Heat of the Moment and Playing with Fire. I tabled the book (for a few years—yikes!) after hitting a road block, and when I came back to it I did some major overhauling to the story and with Cole’s character. Now a Marine, Cole had seen and been through a lot and I wanted that portrayed within the title. I toyed around with Lost and Found for a while before going back to Heat of the Moment but then … inspiration hit. As I wrote one of the last lines in the book, a plea from Cole, it hit me deep and I just knew that’s what I needed to call this book. An thus What’s Left of Me was created and to this day it is one of my favorite stories ever.





Next we'll hear from Christi Corbett.


When I was writing my debut novel, Along the Way Home, I called it "On the Way Home".

Then, when I finally finished all the edits I could possibly do I began looking for a publisher. During that time, I did a search on Amazon and found out the glorious writer, Laura Ingalls Wilder, had a book with that same title. Even though an author can't copyright a title, I felt uncomfortable using the same title as the author that I'd read throughout my childhood. 


So, I began searching for a replacement. Many concepts later, I settled on Along the Way Home. I picked it because my book deals with a family and their trail guide, and their adventures and misfortunes on the 1843 Oregon Trail. I felt it showed when the book took place, as they traveled to their new home.






That leaves me, Samantha. Personally, I love creating titles. A title becomes a kind of meditative chant for me as I'm thinking through the plot and characters. The name plays like an endless loop in my head, spinning out scenes and themes. I have to like the sound of it and it must give a strong hint of the themes within. Like MK, the title comes first and the story flows from it. 


Like fashion, titles follow trends. Have you noticed how many titles use the word 'girl'.


Girl on the Train, Girl With the Dragon Tatoo, Girl with the Pearl Earring


One literary agent recently posted her request for manuscripts, asking for titles with the word 'girl'. I can think of a few to submit. How about one of these?


Girl in the Mirror, The Girl in the Moon, The Girl in the Lavender Corset


Hey, that last one might have some possibilities for one of us writing historical romance. What do you ladies think?


But I should take this question seriously, I suppose, since I asked it. Comes the Winter came to me as a title after visiting Stanley, Idaho and driving over the Galena Summit. At nearly 9,000 feet, it's an imposing obstacle for winter travel. As one travels the mountain highway it's possible to see the original impossibly narrow trail they traveled in the 1880's. So began my story thoughts imagining the fearsome storms that trap the residents in those mountains and high valleys. What would it be like to move from an eastern city and face those winter conditions? It certainly made me shiver.

The answer to the question seems to be a consensus. What's in a title? Quite a lot.

What kind of titles would peak your interest? We'd love to hear from you! 

Enjoy the season and Merry Christmas!


Comes the Winter by Samantha St. Claire

Genre: Historical Romance/western

Type: Novel

Heat Level: 1

Language Level: 1

Violence Level: 1

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