Book titles can drive an author nuts. I usually start writing something knowing where it’s going and what I want to say in the book. Early in the process, I have a title in my mind and this acts as a framework or guidepost along the way. It gives me a measuring stick against which to evaluate each bit of content I want to add. I remember when the marketing people at the traditional publishers would then make a change or two in order to justify their existence and how frustrated that made me feel.
Good titles entice readers but also give them a sense of what they’ll find within the pages.
So when I started writing my country series of short stories, I quickly named it “Island Stories”. After all, I now lived on an island out in the country and it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Wrong. Bad idea.
I had several people come up to me as soon as the first story was published saying, “I know who that is.”
I had to explain (as I said, more than once) there are common character types living in every country setting. None of my characters (so far in any case) are unique to where I now live. Not a single one.
Well, maybe one. Gainer really resembles our cat and it’s his picture. Our cat, “Friday”, has faced down foxes, minks, and even took a chunk out of a Golden Retriever’s nose with those sharp claws. But as far as I know, he hasn’t faced down people (yet). 🙂 But even there, it’s not totally Friday because our farm barn cat “Stripey” hunted rats, rabbits and ruled the barnyard for many years. He also slept on the backs of the cows to keep warm and gave me one of the best memories of my days on the farm (that’s a story for another day).
But the people aren’t specific to any time or place. There’s always a developer in the country. There’s always a gossip network, a drunk, a young man/woman hellbent on getting out to the city (you haven’t met some of these folks yet). There’s always a really good farmer and there’s always a really bad one. There are flirts, cheats and stalwarts who will help anyone.
People are people no matter whether they live in the country or the city. The difference is in the city they can hide, but in the country we all know these people. Nobody can’t hide their true nature for very long in the country (even reclusive writers slowly but surely get known for all their foibles) 🙂
So what’s that got to do with the title?
Calling it “Island Stories” indicated it was about this island. It’s not. It’s more about a common concept we call “country”.
Will I have island settings in the stories? Sure I will. Given I grew up and lived on the mainland, the first time I mention “ferry” is going to pretty much settle that point.
I happen to love this island, it’s reminds me of the country I grew up in (that’s now paved over with subdivisions) and the early years on my farm (that road is now being developed) and those memories are sweet. And living here reminds me of some of the stories I heard in our driveway when my dad and the neighbours were fixing the problem machine of the day.
I’m unravelling that skein of memories, taking the country archetypes, adding in a twist or two to create and populate my own country world. So it’s my personal country – living comfortably within the confines of my own mind. If we happen to share a few memories, I’m absolutely delighted. But it isn’t about the island I live on.
I’m changing the title. I did it quickly and it may or may not change again as I think about it. But for the moment, it’s a generic title until I sort this all out.
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