Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The title battle

Apologies for not posting much recently ... the massive rewrite necessary for book 1, as well as the deadline pressure to keep book 2 on track and flowing has meant I have had little time for anything else.
But, with the copy edit for book 1 done and the first page proofs to be read, plus book 2 about a week away from the first draft being completed, I have a little time to tell you about the long and winding road that has been the title struggle for this new series.
I can officially announce the mucking around with titles is over and we have everything set.
The new series will be The Black Book Of Elves.
Book 1, due out in August 2012 in trade paperback, will be Bridge Of Swords.
Book 2, due out in May 2013 in trade paperback, will be Valley Of Shields
Book 3, due out in February 2014, in trade paperback, will be Wall Of Spears.
I'm happy with those titles now but it has been a somewhat arduous journey!
When I conceived the series, I wanted to use the title Empire Of Bones, based around a throwaway line in Radiant Child. Following on from that, I was going to use Land Of Lies and Kingdom Of Heart. But a few minutes on Amazon showed those titles were taken so it was back to the drawing board ...
Much of the action takes place in Vales, a hilly land that bears a passing resemblance to Celtic Britain.
With that in mind, I initially thought about a series of titles based loosely on the Mabinogion, a series of books from the 1300s that give us many heroic folk tales, principally much of the romantic Arthurian stories. Two of the most famous are the White Book of Rhydderch and the Red Book of Hergest - the Black Book Of Camarthen is sometimes also included in this list.
I wanted to base my titles on these three but, ultimately, could not find an evocative title beyond the Black Book of Elves. The Red Book of Vales and the White Book Of Forland did not cut it.
There was something powerful about the Black Book of Elves, however, even if the Black Book Of Camarthen is not truly considered part of the Mabinogion, so I decided to use that as the series title.
Next step was to look at taking inspiration from the Dylan Thomas poem the Dying Of The Light. probably the most famous Welsh poet, this poem is either written to or about his dying father. As fathers play a huge role in this new series (yes, this is a bit of a theme of mine!), it seemed like fertile ground.
Obviously I could not use the poem title, because George RR Martin used it for a science fiction novel but there are many equally powerful phrases, such as the Cursed Tears.
Ultimately, however, these were not strong enough, nor did they really sum up the story.
Next I thought about the three main characters and titles based on them, such as The Dancer's Dream or The Elf's Nightmare - but really didn't want to have elf in the main title. Not when they're really not elves and especially when I make a big deal about not featuring a cast of singing elves and dancing dwarves.
So I turned to other Celtic themes and came up with Bridge Of Swords, after a legend that you must cross the bridge of swords to get to the Celtic afterlife. The Celts thought this was a world as real as the one they lived in (made them fearless in battle!) This idea of a parallel world, a new world just on the ``other side'' is a key theme in this series, so it seemed perfect.
Now that was the first book sorted - but finding the next two titles became a real struggle.
Pass Of Arrows was deemed too soft - although it is a real place, according to legend the site of a battle victory by King Arthur.
Then we had Wall Of Shields, Tower Of Shields, Forest Of Spears, Valley Of Spears ... seemingly going round and round!
I had a few facetious suggestions as well ... Spears Of Asparagus is one that springs to mind!
But, finally, we have something that both myself and HarperCollins are happy with and that, hopefully, will draw the eye on the bookshelf.
A long road but a worthy one!

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