Tuesday, 17 January 2012

What shall I call it?

The title, cover, blurb on the back, author’s name, opening sentence or first page – all these elements can seduce or repel!

Titles may intrigue or even mystify; define the essence of the book; or may seem a little tired or well worn. A title might declare its ‘genre’ and above all should help any potential reader decide if this book is for them! Whether it's on the table or shelves in Waterstones or the Amazon screen, we want those book-loving browsers to stop and look at it.

My first title Gypsies Stop tHere is odd. Yes, I know it is and it’s meant to make people do a double take. The printer thought the file had not been proofread and apparently said, ‘I don’t think we can work with this’. We did laugh about this afterwards but, until I realised what the problem was, my stomach was doing somersaults.

‘Gypsies Stop tHere’ is possibly the shortest synopsis ever! What it means, of course, is the nub of the book – Gypsies are always told to stop over there, never over here.

Its sequel/prequel No Gypsies Served was called many things before I settled for this title. I wanted them to be a pair, to show they belong together although they can standalone. You could read either one first.
I was at a meeting in London with the Irish Traveller Movement, taking notes. The speaker was harking back to hard times when signs such as ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs,’ were commonplace in B&Bs and so on. Another such shocking sign was ‘No Gypsies Served’. I wrote this down and it jumped back at me from the page. I circled round it several times with my pen – I had found my title.

Shades of Appley Green is set in the same village but nothing to do with Gypsies or Travellers. Initially I wrote this in three sections that became A Light Shade, A Darker Shade that went back 16 years into a troubled time for the main character, and finally A Bright Shade. I played with the word ‘Green’ – this being arguably the essence of the British village – and a colour, and colour can reflect mood. This is perhaps over analysing! I was advised that this kind of book should have a chronological sequence of events. Good advice to follow? Not sure. In the end I did and I didn’t! But I kept the title.

I think my mother would have been pleased with this book. We lived in the Cotswolds, she often had her head in a Miss Read village book and green was her favourite colour – I think it must be mine too, it comes in so many different shades.

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