Monday, February 17, 2014

Choosing a Title

Please welcome, Anne Barwell to the blog today! It's been crazy trying to come together Anne, but I am so happy to have you here!

Thank you, Deanna, for hosting me today.

After having had several comments, and a fair bit of teasing, over my choice of title for my latest release, Shades of Sepia, it seemed apt to write a blog post about the process of choosing story titles.

As part of my writing process, one of the first things I do when I get an idea for a story is to choose a title. Often, because I work full time and only manage to write 1-2 novels a year because of it, those titles and ideas sit for several years before I begin to write them in novel form.  Choosing the title comes along with the outlining and character development, but the story only really becomes ‘real’ once I have that title.  Once that happens I know it’s a story I will write, even if it has to wait until I have the time to work on it properly.  I also tend to write in series, and usually I’ll have not just a title for the first book but others in the series as well.  I have titles for all the books in my current series in progress, at least the ones that have a finite number of books.

I’d been toying for years with the idea of a vampire who falls for a photographer, and written a few short ficlets, but that was it. I knew I wanted to write a full length novel – or more – with these characters but I’d pushed it to the back burner and focused on my current series in progress. I did, however, have the title Shades of Sepia for it. I’d come up with a few other ideas but it’s like when I shop for something. I know it’s the right one once I find it. Some titles just turn up with stories, others I have to ‘hunt for’.  It’s like character names in that regard.

Elizabeth Noble and I were chatting one day and she mentioned she had a vampire character she wanted to do something with as well and so our urban fantasy series The Sleepless City was born.

As well as the title, I already had the basic idea for the plot, my characters Simon and Ben, and the rest fell into place with her characters, our setting and a couple of ‘joint’ characters who quickly became a part of our shared universe. I’d already had in mind the character of Declan, although he’d been a werewolf instead of a vampire so with a few tweaks it all worked out very well.

Why the title Shades of Sepia? Ben’s a photographer and Simon’s a vampire, so ironically the one person Ben really wants to photograph he can’t.  The only photographs of Simon were taken in 1916 before he was turned, and back then many of the photographs were in a sepia tone.  The shades part of the title is a reference to Simon’s vampiric nature, and his struggle with the darkness within.  The difference between good and evil often isn’t that clear cut, but merely a reflection of the different shades of each.
Shades of Sepia is book 1 of The Sleepless City, an urban fantasy series co-written with Elizabeth Noble.

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A serial killer stalks the streets of Flint, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.
Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years, and he has never seen anything like it. Neither have the other supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans.
One meeting with Simon finds Ben Leyton falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can't ignore the growing attraction between them. A recent arrival in Flint, Ben finds it very different from his native New Zealand, but something about Simon makes Ben feel as though he's found a new home.
After a close friend falls victim to the killer, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away to avoid the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent, either, or both of them, could be the killer's next target.
“Cool. I knew you guys were like the Justice League or something.”

Lucas laughed. “I was going more for the Legion of Super Heroes, actually.”

“Yeah, but the League has Batman in it,” Blair began, “and the Legion is—” Luckily, whatever he was going to say was interrupted by the sound of a telephone ringing. Once he and Lucas started on one of their comics conversations, they’d go for what seemed forever.

“Aren’t you going to answer that?” Forge asked Simon.

“What?” Simon glanced around for the source of the ringing. He didn’t get telephone calls and had presumed the noise was coming from wherever Blair was.

“You’re the only one around here who insists on that horrible ringtone,” Forge pointed out, “so it’s obviously your phone.” He’d complained about it ever since Simon had explained—quite logically he’d thought—that if he was to carry a telephone, it made sense for it to at least sound like one.

“Try your pockets?” said Lucas helpfully.

“Oh, right.” Simon fished his telephone out of his pocket. Its screen was flashing with the name of the caller. Simon stared at it.

“You’re supposed to answer it, not stare at it,” Forge said. “Or have you forgotten how to again?”

“I know how to answer it.” Simon poked at the appropriate button, then held the telephone up to his ear. “Simon speaking. How can I help you?”

Forge snickered. Simon glared at him, thought for a moment about retreating to somewhere more private, then realized it would be a waste of time. Damn vampire hearing. Not that werewolves and ghosts were much better.

“Hey, Simon. It’s Ben.”

Perhaps he was calling to say he’d thought twice about meeting for coffee. But why would he take the time to do that? Surely if that were the case, he’d just not contact Simon again at all?

“Hello, Ben.” Simon took a couple of steps toward the door, half turning his back on the other occupants of the room.

“I rang to apologize,” Ben said, his words tumbling out over each other.

“Apologize?” Simon frowned. “Why?” If anyone should be apologizing for the way in which their conversation had ended, it should be him.

“I obviously upset you, and I’m sorry.”

“You didn’t,” Simon reassured him. “I overreacted. I do that sometimes.” He reached for his glass of milk and took a long drink. Feeling a little calmer, he collected his thoughts before breaking the silence. “Would you still like to meet for coffee?”

Lucas and Forge high fiving was something best ignored, as was the smug expression on both their faces.

“Yeah, sure, that would be great,” Ben answered very quickly. “When and where? I’m working a long shift tomorrow so that won’t work, but I don’t start until eleven on Thursday.”

After mentally consulting his calendar, Simon nodded. “That would be fine. I don’t have lectures on Thursday mornings. Do you know Hunter’s on West Thirteenth Street? We could meet there at nine.”

“I haven’t been there, but I’ll find it,” Ben said. “See you at nine then on Thursday?”

“Yes. Good-bye, Ben.”

“Bye, Ben,” called out Lucas.

“Bye….” Ben trailed off. “Hey, who is that?” His voice took on a rather suspicious tone. “Simon, is there someone listening in on us?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Simon said. “I share my… building… with some friends who don’t understand the concept of privacy. That was Lucas. I’ll explain on Thursday.”

“Okay. Bye.”

“Good-bye,” Simon said again, this time to a darkened telephone. He shoved it back in his pocket.

“He sounds cute,” said Lucas. “I like the accent.” He grinned. “Can I come too? I want to hear how you explain me.”

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing "discussion," and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as "too many." These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of "spare time" is really just a myth.


1 comment:

  1. I'm glad we finally managed to get together too, Deanna. Thanks again for hosting me, and I'm looking forward to having you on my blog next week :)