Titles

These two images were submitted, three months apart, for what would become the novel The Watching Lake. In it’s twenty years of life there have been two more covers.

Listening to Norman Jorgensen talk about the title of his latest book, Smuggler’s Curse, at the annual A Night With Our Stars event on Thursday reminded me of my own chequered history with titles.

Like Norman’s latest, some stories seem to have a natural title right from the start. The Eden Glassie Mystery quartet came into this category, with its overall theme of the circling seasons and four individual books using the elements water, earth, fire and wind as motifs. Each has a two-word title that attached itself to its own story and stuck fast throughout the exhaustive editing and publication process. No one challenged them – although there was a robust exchange of words between me and the designer, John Canty, when the artwork for the cover of Stone Circle came through with an image of Stonehenge on it. John had obviously not read the story in which the four  cousins finish off the job of uncovering a circle of smooth, white skull-shaped stones. A job which was begun by recent heavy rains on the Eden Glassie property. However, this was a minor hiccup compared to the protracted dramas of some of my other books. Not only did the title of The Watching Lake change twice during the publication process, the first and second cover images were so dramatically different, both from each other and from the original roughs, that the whole lot was eventually abandoned and the brief given to a new illustrator.

After an experience like that with my first novel I learned never to think of a book as finished until I am actually holding it in my hands – cover and all.

Mandi Graham’s cover art for the first edition. Photographs overlaid to make up the composite cover of the second edition, ten years later.

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