It’s called WHAT? Thoughts on Titles

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

Titles are an important part of how books are perceived, so this month's Ask a Wench Question was:

How do you come up with titles?  How hard is it? Do titles matter? Have you had your publisher give your books a title you didn't like?  And if that's happened, did it sell well?  <G>

Pat Rice:

Rice_Christmas200I’ve written over sixty books and a dozen novellas and coming up with a title only gets more difficult, because by now, I’ve used up every romantic word that can be put on a front cover. And over the last three decades, every possible title has surely been used at least three times, so finding a unique one… requires help, lots of help. (Fresh Christmas title, anyone?)

Before self-publishing, my editor and I used to create long lists of romantic nouns and adjectives and try to piece them together when we couldn’t agree on a title. We’ve come up with the perfect title and been shot down because another author came up with that same title sooner. Now that I’m out here on my own, I call on friends and fellow authors, and when times get desperate, I have social media to fall back on. My new Unexpected Magic series and the first three books were titled entirely by readers, because my friends and I had simply run out of Magic ideas.

If you think that making up titles sounds like fun, sign up for my newsletter and see what you’re in for!


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Twelfth Night: An interview with Anne Gracie

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo 
I always love Anne Gracie’s books, but I especially love this new one, Bride by Mistake, so an interview with Anne about the book is a perfect ending to the Word Wench Christmastide posts about favorite things.
Not only did I hunt Anne down and beg to read it, but here’s a quote I forced on her after I read the manuscript:
BridebyMistake68kb"The always terrific Anne Gracie outdoes herself with Bride By Mistake. When a protective young English officer rescues a Spanish girl and marries her to save her from an abusive suitor, he never expects to live long enough for it to matter. Now the war is over, the annulment is denied, and Luke Ripton has a wife he'd almost forgotten. But at least since Isabella has been living quietly in a convent, she must be modest and obedient….

She isn't! I loved Bride By Mistake. Gracie created two great characters, a high tension relationship, and a wonderfully satisfying ending. Not to be missed!"
The Story

Now that I have the gushing out of the way….<G>  Anne, your Devil Rider books have been quite varied in tone and setting.  (I also particularly like To Catch a Bride, with a good bit taking place in Egypt.  Library Journal listed it among the best romances of 2009.  This is just one among Anne’s many awards and honors.)  What led you to Spain, the setting of most of Bride by Mistake?
AG: Thank you for the very kind words, Mary Jo, and for the interview. The Devil Rufus1Riders books are about four friends home from the war, trying to find a way to live again in peacetime. Luke, the hero of Bride By Mistake, is the last of them. All the way through the writing of the other books, he's been there, and I knew something had happened to him in the war, something that still haunted him, but it only became clear as I wrote this book.
The war was against Napoleon, but much of it took place in Portugal and Spain — and Catchabride40kEgypt— and Bride By Mistake was sparked by an incident in Luke's early days at war, when, as a 19 year old Lieutenant he comes across a young girl — my heroine, Isabella — being attacked. He saves her, then, finding she's fleeing from an unwanted, forced marriage, he marries her for her own protection, and leaves her with her aunt in a convent. As you explained above, he planned on an annulment, but as my story opens, eight years later, Luke's confronted with the unwelcome realization that the marriage is binding and he must go to Spain to collect his bride.

I'm told a lot of readers don't like books set in foreign locations, that Regencies should take place primarily in London or Bath, but there was a great deal of travel in that era, and with the war in Europe and the growth of the British Empire, I simply can't resist the occasional foray into other countries, especially when they connect with everyday Regency people.

The Anne Gracie Heroine

MJP:  Your first Regency romance was called Gallant Waif (I could list more awards Gallant Waifand honors here <G>), but as I think back over your books, I realized they could be entitled Gallant Waif 1, Gallant Waif 2,GF  3, 4….etc.  Tell us about the archetypal Anne Gracie heroine, and about Bella, the heroine of Bride by Mistake, in particular.  
AG: You know, I hadn't thought of that, but I suppose you're right. I tend to choose heroines who are more or less on their own and in a difficult position when the story starts. I like them to be smart, resourceful, loyal and courageous in an everyday sense, as well as vulnerable, with a heart secretly aching for love. They're often ugly ducklings, with the heart of a mother lioness.

Bella, my heroine, is all of these. As heiress to her late mother's fortune, an only child who lacks beauty, Bella was raised by her widowed father to be "almost as good as a son" — his highest accolade.

When the story starts, Bella's been in the convent for eight years. Of course, having been so romantically rescued at the age of thirteen, she's had a huge crush on handsome, Luke Ripton— tall, dark and as beautiful as an angel, a warrior angel — but as the years have passed, the crush has waned. Her school friends think she made him up, and they tease her about her imaginary husband.
MJP:  Excerpt, please!
AG: There's an excerpt on my website showing Bella being teased at the convent. 
     Below is the moment Luke and Bella meet again, after eight years.

     This, then was her husband. Isabella tried not to stare. 
     He was even more beautiful than she remembered. Eight years ago she'd seen him with a child's eye, and he was her savior and, she had to admit, she'd confused him in her mind a little with the angel of the statue. She had after all, only known him two days, not even that.
    But she was a child no longer and he was… he was breathtaking. Tall, dark, his skin burnished with the sun, a rich dark-gold flush along his cheekbones and such fine cheekbones they were. His nose was a strong, straight blade, his mouth, severe and beautiful. And his eyes, dark, so dark they looked black, but she knew from before they were the darkest blue she had ever seen. There was no sign of blue now.
     She swallowed and held her head higher, knowing what he would see, knowing they were ill-matched. The girls had done their best to make her look as beautiful as they could. It wasn't their fault she looked as she did. She knew she'd never make a beauty. She desperately wished she looked pretty for him. 
     But she could see in his eyes she didn't.
     Dear God but it was Mama and Papa again, Papa the handsome eagle soaring high and Mama the plain, dowdy little pigeon, bleeding with love for a husband who never looked twice at her.
     Mama's words rose unbidden to her mind. Guard your heart, my little one, for love is pain. Love is nothing but pain.
BrideByMistakeAustFinalMJP:  I understand that besides the American edition of BBM from Berkley, you’ll also have a simultaneous Australian edition, which I gather is unusual for single title historical romances from American publishers.  Can you tell us more about that?

AG: Yes, it's very exciting. Up to now, they've always imported my US editions and put them on sale 6 months after they came out in the US. But a wonderful person at Penguin Australia read some of my books and passed them around the office. They told me they then realized two things: 1) that my books had been selling well in Australia with virtually no publisher support and 2) I was a local author, so they decided to publish me simultaneously, in trade paperback with this beautiful cover. So I'm feeling very lucky.
MJP:  What’s next for you?  
AG:  I had planned to write Marcus's story, an offshoot of the Devil Riders series, and had started on it, with my editor's approval, but then my publisher saw my proposal for a new series and they wanted me to go ahead with that immediately and put Marcus aside. So now I'm working on a new series, about 4 girls in London. That's all I can say at the moment.
MJP:  A big Awwww! about Marcus, but I’m sure the new series will also be terrific!  Anne, thanks so much for letting me interview you, because that way I got to read the book early!  I understand you’re going to give away a copy to one lucky persoln who comments between now and midnight Saturday.
 AG:  Mary Jo, thank YOU for your support and enthusiasm and for the interview and the fabulous quote. Your words of praise mean a great deal to me.

MJP: It's easy to be enthusiastic about your books.  <G>  For you readers–who is your favorite gallant waif heroine?  You can choose one of Anne's waifs, or others that you like.  Smart, resourceful, brave heroines are such a pleasure to read!

A special gift

Anne here, hoping everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. 
I've been thinking about presents. When you're a child, the fact of the present is usually enough, but sometimes it's the meaning of the present that's important. Looking back at the presents of my childhood, only a few really stand out. Most of them I don't remember at all, and as for where they are now, that's anyone's guess.
  BookendsBut I still have the pair of marble horse-head bookends that my dad gave me one year, that combined my two eleven-year-old passions — reading and horses. (I actually wanted a real horse, but sadly that never arrived.) But this set of bookends was my first grown-up kind of present, and I was so proud to get them.

In several of my books I've had a young girl yearning for a doll. I'm not quite sure where this comes from — I was never a doll kind of child — I preferred living animals, and my teddy. But I suppose a doll stands for someone of your own to love, and I think we can all understand the kind of yearning a young, lonely girl might have for a doll. Dolls are symbolic in so many ways. BridebyMistake68kb
In my book, BRIDE BY MISTAKE — which hit the shelves on Tuesday  —  my heroine's father, having no son, worked his motherless young daughter her hard, training her to run the estate, and treating her as a boy. But one day he returns from a trip and Isabella spies a present in his bag…

Papa's bags were right there. The flap of one was open. Bella was tempted to peek.

What she saw took her breath away — a golden-haired china doll, the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen in her life, dressed in a pink velvet dress, with real lace, so beautiful it almost made her cry. 

Last time Papa had brought her a riding crop, beautifully tooled, and of course, Bella had been delighted, even if it was the kind of thing you gave a son. And she did love riding.

But this gloriously beautiful doll was for a daughter, a most beloved daughter. She didn't know what thrilled her most — the beauty of the doll, or that Papa had thought to bring her something so lovely, so special. It made all her hard work worthwhile.

Every detail of the doll was perfect, even down to tiny oval pink fingernails on her dimpled china hands. Her shoes were of palest pink leather, fastened with tiny pearl buttons, and she wore white stockings made of silk. The doll's eyes were bright blue, with long lashes made of real hair and they seemed to smile at Bella, like a friend, like a sister. 

She hugged the doll to her. She'd always wanted a sister. She would call her Gloriana. She lifted the dress to see what the doll wore underneath — and heard a sound at the door. Someone was coming. Quickly she thrust the doll back into Papa's bag and hurried away.

She would have all the time in the world to play with her doll.  

She changed into her prettiest dress and waited until dinner time with barely suppressed excitement.

"Have you been a good girl, Isabella?"

"Yes, Papa." She felt almost sick with anticipation.

"I've brought you something from the city. Do you want to know what it is?"

Her hands were shaking. "Yes, please Papa."

He handed her a parcel, square and heavy, too small to be the doll.  "Well, go on, open it."

She unwrapped it. It was a book; Equus, on the care and treatment of horses. Puzzled, she glanced at her father, thinking perhaps he'd played a trick on her and would produce the doll in a minute. "Is that all, Papa?"

He laughed. "No, of course it isn't all, now where did I put it?" And he started patting his pockets.

And Bella laughed with him, laughing too loudly in relief and delight that Papa had joked with her, when normally he was so serious.

"Ah, here it is." He pulled from his pocket a small twist of paper. 

Bella's laughter died. She eyed the brown paper twist. She knew what it contained and it wasn't a doll.

"Thought I'd forgotten your sweet tooth, did you?" He gave her the little packet of boiled sweets." Now, come and give your father a kiss and then run along upstairs with your treasures."

Were you a doll kind of child or were animals more your thing? Were you ever disappointed in a present, as Isabella was? Do you still love getting presents? On wordwenches we give our guests the most stupendous cyber gifts, no expense spared. If you could give yourself a stupendous gift, no expense spared, what would it be? I'll give a copy of my January book, BRIDE BY MISTAKE, to someone who leaves a comment.