Monday, October 16, 2006


I’m still referring to my newly finished, revised and tweaked manuscript by that name. It’s the first book of a trilogy -- stories of three women who are each making the mental journey back to a place where she made the wrong choice, took the wrong fork in life’s road – and I’m hoping that I’ve sold editorial on the idea of using it as the linking cover flash for the three books. (But I may be fooling myself...)

It would make a good title for a mainstream book, but it isn’t really hooky enough to be the title of a “Romance” – one that will sell the book to a harassed woman doing the weekly shop, kids in tow, with all of thirty seconds to make her choice. Hence all the “buy me” bride, baby, bachelor titles that give an instant plot summary. The Journey Home doesn’t give you any real clues as to what the book is about.

Understanding what makes a title a winner (The Best Man & the Bridesmaid was perfect!), doesn’t make it any easier to find the right one for this book. In my experience they either leap in to the mind unbidden (see TBM&TBM above – it does what it says in the title), or they don’t and the more emotional the book, it seems, the tougher it is to find a title that works.

One of my personal favourites is “Sophie’s Bakery for the Broken Hearted”. It was the title that sold me the book. In the US it was called “Good Grief”, which one colleague preferred, but which I loathed and would never have bought. (Broken-Hearted works so much better than Grief, for me.) So titles are really important.

I imagine “Marketing” are already working on it. They have been doing a fantastic job with artwork and advertising lately, so I know they’ll do their best to get it right.

Barb had the working title FOR HER EYES ONLY, which I think is absolutely brilliant, for her book. Short, memorable, it ties in with her story so well and says so much about the truly, madly, deeply love that we write about. Jackie is, I suspect, struggling, as I am, to find the perfect title that can sum up a story in six words or fewer.

Belle and Ivo’s story is about the past, hidden lives, secrets. About the fear of telling someone stuff that places your entire life is in their hands. About keeping your distance so that you can’t be hurt. And discovering, too late, that there is no distance far enough. And it’s about loving someone so much that you’ll sacrifice anything for them. All suggestions welcome :)

Email me your ideas (link to my website on the sidebar) and I’ll put them on my blog and take a vote on the best – there’ll be a signed copy of The Valentine Bride for the best. Sadly I can’t guarantee that it’ll be used, that’s not my decision, but it’ll be fun to hear what you’d like to see on the cover.

Here’s a taster to give you a feel for the character, with a picture of Hugh Jackman (are we all fixated on HJ?), in the role of the uber cool and detached Ivo Grenville,

‘You’re usually home long before this,’ Ivo said.

‘Today wasn’t usual. I’ve been away and there was a lot to catch up with. And I had a couple of meetings that ran on.’

A bit of an understatement that, Belle thought wryly. Having done the hard one -- telling Ivo that she was leaving him – her calm announcement that she wouldn’t be renewing her contract to anchor the breakfast television show had been a piece of cake.

And yet here she was making excuses like some kid justifying herself for being late home from school. Not that she ever had been. School had been a dangerous luxury, something she’d had to steal…

It was time to remind Ivo, as well as herself, that she had to make excuses to no one.

‘And then I bought a car,’ she added, as casually as if she’d was telling him she’d bought a new pair of shoes.

Which was when her very cool and detached husband became distinctly heated.
‘You did what!’

Not so much a question, as a man displaying outrage that a woman – his wife, no less – had the audacity to believe herself capable of making that kind of decision for herself.

It had, actually, been quite a week for decisions:

Left her husband.
Had her hair cut.
Bought a car.

So far, it was the car that had got the biggest reaction so she stayed with that.
‘It’s a BMW convertible,’ she told him. ‘Silver. Only 22,000 miles on the clock. It’s being delivered tomorrow.’

‘It’s not new?’ First outrage, now concern. ‘Has it been checked? Please tell me it’s not a private sale.’

Extraordinary. If she’d realized it would get this kind of response she’d have bought a car before. Several of them. Maybe gone into the used car business…
‘Would that be bad?’

‘I’ll need the registration number so that I can run a check. It could be stolen. Or a couple of stitched together wrecks. And the mileage is undoubtedly fake. Have you any idea --’

‘Oh, no,’ she assured him. If he was going to treat her like a dumb blonde, well – new hair colour notwithstanding – she’d had plenty of practise playing the role. ‘I’m sure it’s fine. I bought it from the brother-in-law of a taxi driver I met yesterday.’

He didn’t actually groan, but he didn’t look impressed. He wasn’t meant to.

‘Give me his name and address.’

‘The taxi driver?’

‘His brother-in-law,’ Ivo said, not quite through gritted teeth, but she could see that it was a close call.

It served him right for acting as if she was too stupid to live, she thought. If he’d watched her show once in a while he would have known that they had, on more than one occasion, run features on all aspects of buying used cars.

‘Oh, Mike!’ she said, determined to rub it in. ‘Such a sweet man. Hold on, I’ve got his card somewhere.’ Her bag was lying on the hall table and she opened it, produced a business card, offered it to him.

Ivo took it, looked at it, then at her. ‘Mike Wade is the taxi driver’s brother-in-law?’

‘Yes.’ Then, ‘Is there something wrong?’ Beyond the fact that, too late, he’d caught on to the fact that she’d been winding him up since Mike Wade was a senior representative at one of London’s premier BMW dealerships rather than some dodgy character selling used cars off the street. ‘He asked to be remembered to you,’ she added. ‘Said you’d been in to talk about exchanging your car for one of the smaller models. Very green...’

Then, exhilarating as it should have been to discover that Ivo was not made of stone, that it was possible to wind him up, she found herself regretting it.

He was just looking out for her. Making sure that she was okay.


Anne McAllister said...

Yes, Liz, we are all fixated on Hugh Jackman! Great pic. And my appetite is now whetted (not just from the pic, either) to read about Ivo.

I like The Journey Home as a title, but you're right, in this "title climate" marketing won't go for it. Pity.

Sue aka MsCreativity said...

You've hooked me again Liz, and not just because of Hugh either!

Sue :-)

Nell Dixon said...

Can't wait to read this.

Barb said...

I love The Journey Home title for our trilogy. I passed on my endorsement of that title to my editor, too, for what it's worth.
Thanks so much for the fun of working with you on this project over the past twelve months of brainstorming, holding hands etc. It's been a fabulous experience and I can't wait to read your book and Jackie's.

Kate Hardy said...

Nooo, we're not all fixated on Hugh. (Antonio Banderas - now, there's a different matter *g*)

And you are SUCH a tease, posting this. I'm going to have to wait HOW long to get my hands on the full? (Cue wobbly bottom lip: and a quick detour to the kids' chocolate stash on the way back to my revisions...)

Sierra Donovan said...

Wonderful excerpt, Liz. And while they may not go for "The Journey Home" as a title for the novel, hopefully they'll take it up for the miniseries. I think it's a terrific theme -- I take it that all 3 of the books in the trilogy are yours?

I hear you on the "buy-me" titles. For me, it's enough that the name of a book intrigues me -- it doesn't have to spell everything out. I always kind of cringe to see a story's three-dimensional characters reduced to those simple labels -- cowboy, nanny, bride, etc. And I think "Sophie's Bakery for the Broken-Hearted" is much more evocative than "Good Grief." I guess the marketing surveys don't bear me out, though ... maybe in time, this "title climate" will change!

Oh, and Kate? Antonio is mine!!

Liz Fielding said...

Sierra, the trilogy is a three-hander; the three women bond on a charity event -- cycling in the Himalayas -- and get really close, opening up their darkest secrets.

My book, set in London, is first up, then Barbara Hannay has one in Australia, with Jackie Braun doing one set in the US. We're really excited about it!