Judging a book by its title
In this feature exclusive to BookPage.com, authors are asked a question about the craft of writing to give readers an insight into how their favorite writers think and work. For this month's author forum, BookPage brought together Brian Freeman, Susan Gregg Gilmore and Rosemary Harris to ask: Have you ever judged a book by its title?
Long before I began writing my own novels set in the frozen landscape of northern Minnesota, I came across a slim paperback thriller by Thomas Gifford called The Wind Chill Factor. I knew nothing about the plot, but the title captured the bleakness and ferocity of those below-zero January days. It was easy to imagine lonely rural roads and a bitter blizzard. Years later, I spent most of the winter in Duluth researching one of my books, and I remember seeing Gifford’s novel on the shelf in the cottage where I was staying. The wind was howling like a banshee outside. The title still spoke to me.
Brian Freeman is the author of several mystery novels set in Minnesota. His latest is The Burying Place (Minotaur, April 2010). Read BookPage reviews of Freeman’s novels. Author photo © Martin Hoffsten.
SUSAN GREGG GILMORE
Picking just one of anything is never easy for me. But with that disclaimer out of the way, I’d have to say one title that led me straight to the checkout counter was Mississippi Sissy by Kevin Sessums. Whether I’m writing or reading, I want the words to slide off my tongue like butter and this title does just that. Of course, try saying it 10 times really fast and you may find your tongue-tied. The book was, by the way, just as powerful as the two-word, six-syllable title!
I usually know better than to assume that whatever is on the cover of a book is an accurate reflection of what’s inside. But when I first saw Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, I simply had to pick it up. The title was so evocative. There was a rhythm and languor to it and, of course, the promise that something lovely and tinged with sadness would be found within its pages.
The image, too, was arresting. Who were these people? Why is the woman walking away while the man looks resolutely out to sea? Happily, the book was even better than the cover. One of my favorite books of the last five years.