Is naming a book so different from naming a child? If a nephew or niece is named something you find execrable, the name eventually becomes so inextricably tied up with the person it is given to, that you lose sight of your initial opinion. Perhaps this is the same with books – once you get to know and love them that title you thought was a little odd becomes commonplace. A child's name though is not simply a matter of taste; it can signify many things: class, religion, era, nationality, family and this is the case with books too. Titles, as much as covers, classify books: anything with the word wedding must be 'chick lit'; Queen and you're firmly in 'historical fiction' territory; blood and it's likely to be 'crime' and anything deceptively simple is probably 'literary' and layered with hidden metaphor, the same goes for anything overly complicated.
With my first novel (or the first to be published) Queen's Gambit, it had always and only ever been called Poison Bed. That title, for me, was woven into the novel's themes but my agent thought it suggested 'crime' so Queen's Gambit, which had once been a discarded chapter heading, was dusted off. Now I can't imagine it being called anything else. It is a bit like my daughter who I'd wanted to call Stella but her French father said in his charming gallic accented English 'I will not have my daughter named after a beer,' and so she became Alice, a name I liked a lot but not as much as Stella.
The thing is with a novel, it's not just two of you who have to concur, there are many others and they will not always agree with either you or each other: the sales department might hate what the editorial department loves, and the author might find it hard to be heard over the din. I am trying to name a novel at the moment, which had been lovingly named Lady Crookback in progress, a name I always knew wouldn't ultimately pass muster. Then out of an anguished process of to-ing and fro-ing a title was decided upon, generally agreed and the wheels began to turn on appropriate covers and so on. But then I began to waver and suggested something new, causing some wailing and gnashing of teeth. 'But it's your book,' I hear you say. 'Can't you name it what you like?' I could, yes, but I'd be a fool not to listen to the combined experience of all the clever people at my publishers who have been successfully flogging books for years. I'm sure though, that whatever it ends up being called, by the time it's on the shelves it will suit its name perfectly.
Which do you prefer: House of Queens or Queen Jane's Shadow?
Refs for booktitles: Emily Temple in Flavorwire