What’s in a name? Apparently heaps.
A swimming teacher I work with told me the other day because of multiple negative experiences with boys called Jackson, and girls called Brittany, she couldn’t help but roll her eyes whenever she had a new kid to teach who had one of those names and think, ‘what hell are these ones going to put me through’. Now, I don’t think the kids’ behaviour had anything to do with their names, but it did make me think about what we see in a name, how it affects us and the lasting impressions it leaves. This question became even more important recently when I had to come up with a new name for the novel that Destiny Romance has just published.
When I started to write this novel, as usual, I had no idea what it was about. I am a true pantser (writer who doesn’t plot). But I had a re-occurring dream about a music producer with a dark past she wanted to hide and a rock star she wanted to work with whose fame threatened to bring her secrets to light. There was also a phrase that kept recurring in my dream, ‘sounding the heart’. The hero said it to the heroine when he was talking about what he saw in her. So, of course, that’s what I named it when I had to name my document. What I didn’t know then, was that it would turn into a romantic suspense novel with a stalker and murderer in the mix. I knew when I was subbing it that the name wasn’t right, but I couldn’t really think of anything else, because ‘Sounding the heart’ was what it was to me.
Of course, that title would be good if it was a straight romance novel, however, it in no way suggests the suspense/murder part of the plot – which is a quite significant part of the story. My editor very carefully asked me how attached I was to the title (my answer when I was writing it might have been, ‘quite a bit’, but now, it was ‘not at all’.) Knowing this question was going to be coming I had been thinking about the importance of titles and what certain titles said to me. I know there have been times when I’ve picked up a book just because of what it’s called. Of course, if the blurb didn’t appeal to me, I put it right back, but the title was the thing that caught my eye. So, it seemed, there was a lot in a name if I wanted people to pick up my novel and have an idea from the title what it might be about.
I quickly came up with a bunch of titles that encompassed different aspects of the novel – the twin connection, the music, the dark creepiness of the stalker and combinations that encompassed elements of two or three of these. I really wanted something that would speak of the way the hero and heroine’s music spoke to each other (so touching on the feel of the original title), but also suggested the darker side of the novel.
In amongst all these suggestions was my favourite, Killing Me Softly. I liked it because it hit the darker elements nicely, but also references Roberta Flack’s 1973 song about a woman listening to a musician whose song speaks to her soul (something that is mentioned by the heroine in the novel), so it shows the importance of music in the hero and heroine’s journeys. Luckily, my editors loved it too and picked it among the dozen others I’d thrown out there.
So, after years of calling the novel by another name, it is now called ‘Killing Me Softly’ – and do you know what? I love it. It feels good, much better than ‘Sounding the Heart’ ever did. It tells me so much more about the story. And I hope it speaks to readers too.
Killing Me Softly is out now. Find it at www.destinyromance.com, Amazon, Kobo or iBooks.