Watch Out: She’s Got a Title and She’s Not Afraid To Use It

- by Emilie Richards

I am a title fiend. While some authors couldn’t care less what their books are titled, my editors know we’d better get this right at the very beginning, or I will be consumed with the desire to completely rewrite my growing manuscript to correspond to whatever changes they make. I will then be late for my deadline, out of sorts, and no fun to talk to on the telephone.

This isn’t rational, but since when is being rational a prerequisite for becoming a novelist? Truly, were we rational, we would have gone to law school or trained to become dental hygienists. We would not temporarily abandon family, friends and social interaction to inhabit the worlds of characters who will never hold our hands at the doctor’s office or retrieve our mail while we’re on vacation.

Several years ago when the title Happiness Key occurred to me, I knew immediately that my book would really be about–duh–the key to happiness. My characters, four very different women, would all struggle unsuccessfully to find happiness, and discover by the novel’s end that all the time, the key was just within reach.

Then I was approached about doing a sequel. Trust me, when your characters have already achieved their own happily ever afters, what’s left to tell? Except that in this case, there were a lot of loose ends. Now, I like loose ends. I trust my readers to know all will be well, and to tie them up in their own imagination. I don’t think we have to follow characters to their graves and document every meal and grandchild. But this time, the loose ends were tantalizing to me, as well. Was Janya’s arranged marriage to a stranger now on the right track? Were Tracy and Marsh finally going to get it on? Was Wanda going to find eternal happiness serving fried shrimp to customers in flip flops, or was there more in her future?

Now what could I call a book about characters who were already known to be closing in on their own keys to happiness?

Enter Fortunate Harbor. Once I began to delve into the story, I saw two themes emerging. One, that sometimes fate is kind, and we are fortunate for no discernible reason. Fate deposits us in the right place at the right time and our lives are better because of it. Two, that women throughout history have protected and helped each other, and sometimes paid dearly for their courage. With that in mind, and with word lists as long as my arm, I chose Fortunate Harbor as my title. 

Then, and only then, could I finally get to work. Yes, I am a title fiend, but sometimes the whole story is right there on the cover, ripe for the reader to discern. Fortunate Harbor came out this summer and now I’m hard at work on the final novel of the trilogy, Sunset Bridge. I leave the meaning behind that one to your own fertile imagination. I promise the story’s all there.

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