Ask A Wench – Wenches on Writing

The Wenches were asked to answer some questions about writing and the publishing industry, and today we’re replying to the first one – How do you decide on a title? Is it the editor or you or what?

OnceASoldier FinalMary Jo:  Titles wars, all authors know them well! Ideally, authors and editors work together to come up with titles that in just a few words will convey the genre, the essence of the story, and also have a marketing punch. Not surprisingly, this is difficult! 

In my first book, my heroine was a gifted musician so my working title was the rather uninspired THE MUSICAL LADY. Later, my brother-in-law, an amateur musician, suggested LADY OF NOTE, which was better since it conveyed both music and being notable.

The book sold quickly on a partial manuscript, but coming up with a good title was another matter. My first editor always insisted that her writers come up with good titles. We would produce pages of possibilities, which she would dismiss with a few heartless chuckles. When I'd say in exasperation that she should come up with a title, she had a whole prepared speech about HOW MANY BOOKS she'd edited over the years, how could she possible do any more???  Cowed, I'd slink off and produce more lists, which were all shot down posthaste.

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Country Living and Natural Colours

Christina here. With life in the 21st century increasingly hectic, there are quite a few people who decide they want to escape from the rat race and live a simpler way. Buying a smallholding or croft can be the start of a new way of life, and that is exactly what the heroine in my recent novel HIDDEN IN THE MISTS did. She wanted to live in tune with nature, be healthier and happier by spending more time outdoors, and growing/producing as much of her own food as possible. It’s something I think a lot of us dream about and after being cooped up in cities during the pandemic, many people went on to follow that dream.

RoosterClearly it is not for the faint-hearted though – there is no doubt it is hard work. Keeping chickens for eggs, having a cow or two for milk (and/or goats), a flock of sheep for wool, and perhaps other animals for slaughter is probably a must. (Not to mention having to learn how to look after them and doing things like milking.) As is growing copious amounts of vegetables and having fruit trees and berry bushes, as well as foraging in any nearby forests. My heroine is lucky in that she lives on the west coast of Scotland so she is also able to go fishing, which is an added bonus.

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Hidden in the Mists

Hidden In the Mists mediumAnne here, and today I'm interviewing Christina Courtenay about her new book, HIDDEN IN THE MISTS (released yesterday 18th August). As expected, this is a Viking story — and just as an aside, Christina's Viking stories have brought me happily back to this genre, after I'd thought I'd given up on Viking stories. Hers are fresh, original and really well researched. But this time Christina has departed from the time-slip plot and written a dual timeline story, one set in Viking times and the other in modern times.

Here’s a short summary: Skye Logan has been struggling to run her remote farm on Scotlands west coast alone ever since her marriage fell apart. When a handsome stranger turns up looking for work, it seems that her wish for help has been granted. But echoes of the distant past wont leave them alone, and it seems that the ghosts of the past have secrets … and they have something that they want Skye and Rafe to know.

Anne:  Christina, what inspired this story?

22 ViewChristina:  HIDDEN IN THE MISTS was written during the Covid pandemic when we were in lockdown here in the UK. Usually I like to travel to the places where my stories are set, but as we weren’t allowed to go anywhere I decided I had to use a location I’d already visited. Scotland is one of my favourite places and it seemed ideal as I wanted to write a dual time narrative that was partly about Vikings. They raided and settled along the west coast of Scotland and the islands there quite early on. It helped that I happen to have a very good friend who lives there and she was able to assist me whenever I needed any precise details. As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, the spark for this book also came from the Galloway Hoard, the fabulous Viking treasure found in 2014. The plot grew from there and the various elements came together in my imagination.

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All that glitters …

Poster… isn’t gold – but sometimes it IS!

Christina here. Next week my latest book will be released and the idea for this story was sparked by the Galloway Hoard, a magnificent treasure found in Scotland in 2014. As soon as I heard about it, I was fascinated. I could only imagine how amazing it must feel to discover something like that. Despite having bought myself a metal detector a few years ago, I’ve never found anything other than a few rusty nails and a piece of iron pipe, so I decided I would have to fulfil this dream in my imagination instead. Add to this the fact that the hoard was of Viking origin and it seemed like serendipity! That’s when Hidden in the Mists started to take shape in my mind.

BirdThe hoard was probably buried around 900 AD and consists of various gold and silver items, as well as other more ordinary things. It’s one of the most incredible treasures ever found in Scotland and the richest one from the Viking age. I read all the articles about it when it was first revealed and couldn’t wait for it to go on display. That took a while as obviously the items had to be conserved and assessed first. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to see it in person, and I was enthralled by the many precious objects. My absolute favourite was a little gold pin in the shape of a bird which I had already used in another story, Whispers of the Runes. The hero of that book is a silversmith/jeweller and I had him make a pin just like this. I saw it as a bird of prey or a raven judging by its curved beak, but archaeologists felt it more resembled a flamingo. Most probably it’s a fantasy bird but either way, I just love how intricate it is, despite being so small!

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