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Plymouth, Devon, United Kingdom
West Country author, winner of Piatkus Entice award for historical fiction 2012.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Titles - sent to try us ...

I haven't posted here for a little while, and the very simple reason for that is that this is primarily a writing blog and rather than write about writing, I've actually been doing some. How very strange ...
Anyway, I'm feeling quite please with myself at the moment having just completed the first draft, and first and second edits of my second book. (The first one is still out there being perused by the damn publisher who asked to see it, and it's a daily struggle not to spend too much wondering if that's a good thing or a bad thing)

This book is the one that's been with me, I think, the longest ... I'm not sure. It's been through several incarnations - ironically the subject matter has no small connection with that as well - and even more titles. The first title was long-winded and annoying, but it popped into my head before I even started to write, and so I wrote the book around the title which was "The Haunting Of Jonathan Riley." Lots of problems with that: It's too much like something else, it was too long, and when I got into the story I realised that Jonathan Riley was not haunted at all, but playing host to something a bit unpleasant. Briefly, as a child messing about somewhere he shouldn't underground, he smashes a jar containing the treasured, and supposedly guarded, remains of an ancient Cornish king with unfinished business to attend to. Boy inhales dust in shock, boy becomes something you really don't want to fuck about with. (As I said, briefly ...) I understand this subject matter is either something you can run with or you can't, it's all a matter of taste. Not the point.

So anyway. It changed a few times, had the working title of "The Heath" for an awfully long time, set as it is on Bodmin Moor where I grew up. Then one day when I opened the document to get down to it, I just looked at the title and realised I was so incredibly sick of it that if I wasn't careful I'd bin the whole project.

So, the search for a new title began. Again. I'm notoriously shit at titles; either I come up with them and nothing to put under them (ie: a story) or else the story leaks out of my fingertips mega-fast and then I spend weeks searching for something catchy to hang on it handle-wise. The two rarely come together.

I played with several ideas and came up with a couple, then had to ask Ms Google to please check I hadn't nicked them. I had, of course. One was "The Dust of Ages" which turned out to be a song. Then I started with the word "ancient" to see what slithered through my mind, and came up with "The Dust Of Ancients."
Ooh good, I thought, that sounds nifty! So I Googled it, and it came up with a whole page full.
Shit, says I. Then I realised they were all the same thing, and that one thing was a line from Geoffrey Of Monmouth's History Of The Kings Of Britain. First published 1138. Abso-bloody-lutely perfect.

Even better was, when I read the whole excerpt, the line is: "The dust of ancients shall be restored."
I have a notes document for each project, these usually run into several thousands of words for a longer piece, and I just hammer away at it when I've got a problem. It's always fun to read through and see how the thought processes work and how the original idea evolved.
Very often it's peppered with things like "fuck, this isn't working, I need coffee/a nap/a miracle" etc. The notes document for this book totalled 39,262 words - the book is just over 107,000.
Here's the bit where I worked through the title problem (the most recent one)

I hate the title!!!!

Gah! Go back to something like the original? The haunting of Thomas Riley? But that sounds like a ghost story and it’s not. Also sounds bit archaic and it’s set now. So no.

There follows a lot of other notes and then this:

How about something like King’s Dust for the title? Strange, but keep thinking along those lines. Dust of The King? King to Dust? Dust Of Ages? Sounds familiar though ... Google it.

It’s a song, but not a book title!! So don’t rule it out.

Dust Of The Ancient

Dust Of Ages?

The Dust Of Ancients – quote from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History Of The Kings Of Britain.

Okay, so the new working title, is The Dust Of Ancients. It’ll probably stay that.

Now, if only the perfection of this little find could be taken as an omen. What do you think?

Just out of interest - one of my first entries here concerned characters and their inability to behave: I've just seen this in my notes document:

SHIT! Bloody Laura has found something in the grass by the old mill house and I don’t know what it is!!! ARRGGHH!

Why can’t she keep her feet to herself??

I rest my case.


Heather said...

Tel, I love the title, it sounds excellent and a lovely bit of serendipity there too. The plot is also fascinating, can't wait to read the finished article.

baggiebird said...

Terri your book sounds just the sort of thing I like to read. I like the Title it's fairly cryptic and inviting