Where do the titles come from?

by Barb, who always gets a little sad when the summer ends

Those of you who read my Maine Clambake books and novellas know that my titles have a consistent construction. A past tense verb is followed by a preposition.

The first three titles were easy, and in my original proposal for the series:

My publisher, Kensington, liked the titles, which are pithy, punny, and foodie, and took them exactly as was. A title convention was born. Now what?

I didn’t know if there would be more books, but a girl can dream, right? I printed a list of prepositions from the Web. There are more than you think, but still…

My list of prepositions. Actually, I have more than one.

In my spare time (i.e. while procrastinating), I doodled lists of possible verbs, both in combination with the prepositions and alone.

I have a lot more of these, too. (You can click on each to make them bigger.)

For the next book I proposed Fogged In. It was my first book set outside of tourist season, in the last week of November, and I thought the title was atmospheric and Maine-y. My editor didn’t love it, and it was only then that I realized we might have a fundamental misunderstanding of what I was doing. Kensington thought I was writing food books. I thought I was writing Maine books. Titles flew back and forth. At the eleventh hour, I proposed adding the second N, and Fogged Inn was born. The next book, set in February, became Iced Under. I would have preferred Iced Over, a more common expression, but I’d already used Over in Boiled Over. Or Snowed Under, which has a better ring to it, but the book was about the historic ice business, so there you are.

Then came a series of S books–Stowed Away, Steamed Open, Sealed Off, and Shucked Apart. I would have have happily called the next one Simmered Down, which has a foodie association, and the book was full of soups, but we decided we had to cut it out with the Ss. Readers were getting confused.

So I put out a call in my newsletter for suggestions. Some people really didn’t get the convention, but others were terrific. And so it was that a reader, Lorna Doran, titled Muddled Through.

I’ve been less concerned about repeating the prepositions in the titles of the novellas. Mine is always the third story in the book, and the title isn’t on the cover. It isn’t what sells the book. The novella titles are

Now that the novellas being released as standalone ebooks, I wish I had been more careful about those prepositions.

This summer I’ve handed in the manuscript for the eleventh book, and the synopsis for the sixth novella. What are the titles? You’ll have to wait and see.

Readers: In the meantime, do you have title suggestions for me? Load them up in the comments. If I pick yours, you’ll get a thank you in the Acknowledgements and an Advance Reader Copy, when they’re available. Hint: The next novel I have to write, the twelfth, includes a wedding. (But whose?) Any suggestion that follows the convention is most welcome, but extra bonus points for the wedding one.

39 Thoughts

  1. I’ve always thought having a pattern to the titles was brilliant of you, Barb. I went the pun route for my first two cozy series, and the Country Store titles are getting harder and harder. When our shared editor suggested “Murder in the X” (with X being some shop or place in the town) for the Cozy Capers series, I was relieved.

    I’m coming up dry for your 12th. Joined Together sounds pretty boring!

  2. This is fun and I am drawing a blank. Of course, that could be Drawn Down, Drawn Away, Drawn Butter and Blood!

  3. I’m no good at titles but since I’m stuck at work doing nothing I thought I’d give it a shot. Kept going back to the Maine coast- how about Coastal Tied or Waved Goodbye?
    Wedding themed is harder, all I’ve got is ‘Til Death and Veiled Threat.

  4. I’m assuming Married Off is too obvious. 🙂

    As much as I love titles, I’m horrible at coming up with them. It’s something I struggle with for my reviews. But if I think of any, I’ll let you know.

  5. What fun – Titles are always so hard, they have so much work to do in so few words. Almost as difficult as the dreaded elevator pitch!

    I’m suggesting Lobstered Down. Lobsters mate for life.

  6. I was thinking about how in some of the wedding vows it says something like “Let no man put asunder….” And, I came up with Bride Apart ( sounds like Pried Apart). Good luck with the title!

  7. Blissed Out, Ringed Over or Under, Trained Up. Yeah, this is hard. Looking forward to the next book.

  8. I’m a day late responding (sorry!), but how about “Bowled Over”? The meaning of the phrase is “To astonish, or surprise greatly,” as in, “When I saw your beautiful face, I was completely bowled over.”

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