Before The Title Past

By Nancy Marie
Before the Title Survey This Month's Tidbit


Hello all,

Since this column is officially called, "Before the Title," I thought to take that literally and find out how various authors came up with the titles to their books; a sort of "Before the Title Survey," if you will. What follows below are various authors' responses to the question: How did you arrive at the title to your book?


Lynn Barry, author of Puddles:

My first novel Puddles was recently released by PublishAmerica, Inc.. My book's title came first. The book is fiction, but in the story the teenage daughter likes to jump in puddles and the main character expounds on her intolerance in regards to her daughter's puddle jumping love and that is how the title came to me in real life. My daughter came home one day bragging about jumping in puddles and it bugged me so much I thought, "Aha that's the title of a book I am going to write." The rest of the story followed. This is how each book I have written has happened. I get the title, then the book follows after I put the title on the top of the screen. I have no clue what the story will be about until I sit down to write it.
(For more information about Puddles see this month's review by Nancy Marie)
Also you can contact the author at


Nancy Mehl, author of Graven Images and Sinner's Song:

I gave my novel, Graven Images, a title after completing the book. Since the protagonist, Cally Jo McAllister, works as a police sketch artist, I was playing with words like "picture" and "image." Out of this evolved Graven Images. Since Cally can't trust the images she sees, I thought this title was appropriate for the novel.

However, my second novel, Sinner's Song, actually came from a poem I wrote before I began the novel. Originally, the title of the poem was, A SYMPHONY OF SAINTS AND SINNERS. My publisher convinced me to change the name of the poem to match the title of my book. So now, Sinner's Song is the name for both.

A copy of the poem can be seen on my web site at: I love to hear from readers. My e-mail address is:


J. Paul Cooper, author of Fluffy: A Cat's Tale:

Greetings from Nova Scotia, Canada

The title of my novel is Fluffy: A Cat's Tale. I decided on "Fluffy," because my main character is a pampered city cat that has to learn how to live with town cats that are used to prowling and fighting with other cats over territiory. He also has fluffy white fur. Tiger, a local cat that gives him a hard time, thinks he must be a real wimp to have a name like that. After a scrap over territory, Tiger learns that Fluffy still has his claws.


Radine Trees-Nehring, author of A Valley to Die For, Dear Earth: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow, and Music to Die For:

I have named three books. My first, a non-fiction work about the struggles and awakening that come to city dwellers who move to the country, began as Making it Home. The editor wasn't thrilled with that title, too bland, and she and I began thinking over title ideas. I don't mean this to sound mystic--it was very real--but after several days of thought and prayer, a title both the publisher and I loved popped into my thoughts, and Dear Earth: a Love Letter from Spring Hollow was born.

The two completed novels in my mystery series featuring Carrie McCrite and Henry King began with perfectly good titles that fit the plots. But then (thank goodness) one of my editors at ST KITTS PRESS discovered another book soon to be released with the same original title as my first series novel. Back to thought and prayer. I remembered two things. (1) An agent who wanted to represent me suggested I work on recognizable series' titles...a'la The Alphabet Series by Sue Grafton: "A is for Alibi, B is for..."etc. And, (2) The exclamations by an acquaintance defining anything VERY good as "_______ to die for!" (Chocolate to die for. You get the idea.) Using that statement in a positive manner has since spread into many people's general conversation. Those memories helped give birth
to the "Something to Die For" mystery series, with book one, A Valley to Die For, book two, Music to Die For. And so on. I love the titles. I hope you do too.

Radine Trees Nehring's website -


Staci Stallings, author of Eternity:

While working on "Eternity" I was midway through the book using one working title when in working out a plot point, a type of perfume became important. I went to my favorite resource, the 'net and started searching for what kind of perfume it might be. As I recall I searched perfume and fragrance sites for over an hour--I didn't like the name, it had the wrong type of scent, the bottle was horrible, and then I found it -a perfume called "Eternity" in a simple clear bottle with a silver top. That's when a simple plot point became the pivot on which the whole book turned and when I found one of my favorite titles of all my books--Eternity.


Shirley Johnson, author of A Divorced Mother Talks to God:

There really wasn't much thought to naming my book. I was a divorced Mom crying my eyes out to God. Thus the title A Divorced Mother Talks To God."


Chari Davenport, author of The Christmas Party:

My title, The Christmas Party was just destined to be. The plot occurs at a Christmas party. And, the entire story about this party. It took me about ten years off and on to complete this novel and I have always called it, The Christmas Party. For a while I only thought of it as a working title, but when it was time to get serious, I realized the book had already named itself and it had been named for years. I'm glad I chose the title, The Christmas Party because it truly is the perfect title.

Chari Davenport's website is:


I suppose I should also answer this question myself, since I am also an author whose book, When You Wish Upon A Star is about to be released from AmerikaHouse Publishers. Unlike my other novels, Benjamin's Bride, Jinger's Journey, and Pollie's Poverty whose titles actually came before the book, the title for When You Wish Upon A Star, came to me as soon as I had finished writing the opening scene. Paige, my herione, makes a wish on a shooting star to never be beaten again. Since the novel, is loosely based upon my own experiences with domestic violence, I hadn't a clue as to what to call it when I began writing. However, the first scene made such an impact on me that it became a no-brainer as to what the title should be.


This month's Trivia Tidbit:

The word author is a derivative of the Latin word auctor meaning creator, and the first copyrighted author in the United States of America was John Barry, who wrote The Philadelphia Spelling Book. The copyright was registered with the US Copyright office on June 6, 1790, and as far as anyone knows there are no complete copies of this book in existence today.

Jeff Shelby earned a Bachelor's degree in English from the University of California, Irvine. His first mystery, Dead Week, was released in December 2001. He and his wife live in Castle Rock, CO. His website is .


2002 Past Columns - Nancy Marie / Jeff Shelby

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