A guest post for Ravenstone by Chadwick Ginther
I hate coming up with titles. Whether I’m writing novels or short stories, the title is usually the last thing I type before I hit send.
But I need to have a working title, even if it’s terrible, to hold a project together. Thunder Road’s working title was Ink and Thunder and it got across what I wanted it to, but I also knew that it was temporary. Tombstone Blues, by contrast, always felt like the right title to Book Two. I’ve been calling Book Three in the trilogy Play with Fire for almost as long as I’ve been writing about Ted Callan, but I also knew I wanted to change that title.
The folks at Ravenstone weren’t keen on Play with Fire either, and not just because it broke the “T” portion of the established title pattern. Pattern, you say? That’s what I thought too. For a long time I was blind to the fact that I’d established a pattern in the titles of the first two books until it was pointed out to me. Thunder Road. Tombstone Blues. Both song titles starting with “T,” both three beats, an alphabetical progression. This pattern might not have mattered quite so much if I was writing an ongoing series and Tombstone Blues hadn’t been the second book. But I was writing a trilogy, so I found myself a bit stuck.
Or, to steal a phrase from Ted, “Well, shit.”
When I was negotiating the contract for Book Three, one of the other things I went back and forth on with Ravenstone was the title, but we didn’t have any luck that day. A title would come to me, I thought. It would be no problem. That was in February. There was many a morning I found myself with the dictionary open to “tombstone” and scanning from there on, muttering to myself and looking for a word that would be a great kickoff for a title. I found a lot of great words. But they weren’t in songs. Or they were in songs, but not songs that I liked. And anyone who knows me knows how hard that would be for me to get around.
I haunted song lyrics search sites. “Songs about weather.” “Songs about fire.” “Songs about fate.” I searched the discographies of musicians I liked. Most proved unhelpful, or teased me with a title that would hit all of the elements of the pattern but wouldn’t work thematically for the story I wanted to tell. “Tumbling Dice,” I’m looking at you.
Between myself, Ravenstone, and Neil Young’s discography, we had a list of ten or so possibilities. A few that I really liked. I polled some of my bookselling and library chums to get a sense of which they felt were strongest. One included a word I knew we wanted to avoid. Another had “Road” as part of the title. I thought bookending the series with “Road” might be interesting, but then “Blues” would’ve just been hanging out there in the middle, sticking out and feeling lonely.
Finally, we thought we had it. My only caveat, before agreeing to the title we chose, was that I wanted to see it rendered in the title font. To which my publisher said, “You want me to design the cover right now?” and I said, “Yes.”
I liked the way it looked.
More importantly, when I said it aloud for the first time, and in the context of being the title of Book Three, it rolled off my tongue. We all knew it was right.
Here it is. Coming for you Fall 2015.
Too Far Gone.