Background artiste from 'Better than Stars'

Monday, 24 October 2011

'The Vampire Angel Syndrome' - on the naming of books

I made that up. Just to catch your eye. Another one I like is 'The Skin is Sweet but the Flesh is Bitter.' I overheard someone say it once - they were describing the experience of eating a kumquat - and I've always known exactly the kind of story that would go with it, if it were the title of a book.

How important is the title of your novel? Very, very important, once it's published. I imagine the reasons are self-evident, and because of that everyone wants a say: editors, marketers, sales reps ... So is it worth agonising over the title of your unpublished MS, given that it's almost bound to be changed if you get a deal?

I think yes. After all, it has to do the same job on your behalf in the slushpile, as the final title will on the bookshop shelf: say to someone who might otherwise pass it over: "Pick me up! Me! Me! You know you want to."

My titles could be improved. The second one, Better than Stars or Water, has been in place since the book was conceived. It's a line from the poem which inspired the story, and as such I'm rather fond of it and like the reference it makes. It's performed quite well getting the novel a first audience, but I doubt it would survive the critical eyes of a marketing team. It's too long. The giveaway is that even I tend not to use the full title. I shorten it to "Better that Stars," or worse still "The Venice book."

The titles for my first novel have been pretty dire. I never use them when talking about it. I've had plenty of better ideas. They must have been good, because I check them online, and find they're already out there attached to published books.

There wasn't much left, as you can see from this selection of working titles:

Peregrin Zefyr and the Alloid Invasion (sounds like a West Country book about World War II)
Peregrin Zefyr and the Ratsnatcher (sounds like something from the Victorian slums) 
Peregrin Zefyr and the  Cosmic Ratsnatcher (too cumbersome)
Peregrin Zefyr and the Timesnatcher
Peregrin Zefyr and the Timehiker

... getting there, but you must be able to see the theme that's holding us back. Peregrin Zefyr (usually shortened to Zeff) is a central character, but it's a mouthful. Eoin Colfer can get away with Artemis Fowl, but, well, he's Eoin Colfer ... and you've got to worry when people keep spelling it wrong.

I finally sent the sample out under the shortened title Timehiker, and got a request for the full MS. And - here's the fortuitous bit - it was referred to in error by the agent as TimehikerS.

Timehikers. Brilliant. I think I'll go with that ... for the time being at least.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Of Star Wars, Shakespeare and Ancient Egypt

Well I didn't see that coming ... and I promise that is absolutely the last soothsaying joke you will read in this blog. Well, almost.

It's a while since I've posted: blame the demands of Antony and Cleopatra. As you can see, in the end my appearance was more by Darth Maul out of Obi Wan Kenobi.

In fact, I wasn't the only Star Wars character in the dressing room. We also had a giant Ewok

and Princess Leia.

As for Jabba, Yoda and R2D2 ...

And what was it I failed to foresee? Actually nothing to do with the play - except for the odd fact that it's not the first time good news about my attempts to get published has sneaked up on me while I've been looking the other way because of a performance. All of a sudden I've got interest in my first book - now provisionally called Timehikers - from two directions. Yay!

I can't say any more at the moment. You'll have to watch this space ... although of course I know already how it's all going to turn out (sorry).

PS Thanks to my fellow actors for letting me include their images, and to Owen Benson for letting me use and abuse some of his photos of the play (apologies for the cropping)

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

More about the Kids' Lit Fest

Check out this link for encouraging news about childrens' books, and reviews of some of the events from the festival. Don't miss the video clip of Eoin Colfer at the beginning of his hilarious set.