Thursday, May 19, 2022

What's In a Name? A Guest Post by Sara Paretsky

RHYS BOWEN:  When Hank asked me if I had room for a post by Sara Paretsky the answer was 
DUH! Who wouldn't make room for the fabulous one? She's been my idol for years, not only for her ground-breaking PI series but also for founding Sisters in Crime and giving us female authors a voice and a presence in what was a male-dominated world. 

So I'm really excited Sara has a new book out and I know you are too. Welcome, Sara:


SARA PARETSKY:
 
It’s not so easy to name a book. If you’re writing domestic fiction, you don’t want to call your novel, Blood Spatter. If you’re writing noirishly, Murder at the Homesick Restaurant misses the mark.
I called my first book, Indemnity Only. I was working in the insurance industry at the time and the plot centered on Workers’ Compensation fraud. In workers comp, “indemnity only” means the worker died on the job and the insurance company pays out a death claim (after suitably fighting with the bereaved family over whether the worker caused her/his/their own death through carelessness and therefore the employer and the insurer aren’t liable – but that’s another novel altogether. In fact, my tenth, Total Recall.)
Deadlock seemed perfect for my second novel, where a Great Lakes freighter is blown up in the Sault Ste. Marie locks.

After that, my editors felt my market presence, fledgling though it was, was marked by two-word titles, preferably with a double meaning. Sometimes I have the title before I even write the first sentence, but often I name my baby long after the final draft is with my editor.

Overboard, my new novel, was originally called Double Dirty.  One of my friends used to drive trucks for a Mob-connected firm when he was in high school. He loved hanging out with the guys, and one of the things the guys did was play a roving crap game underneath Chicago’s bridges. It’s not straight out of Guys and Dolls; Guys and Dolls is straight out of the street life of the American city.

These roving games go back almost two centuries. It’s kind of quaint that in the age of the Net, you can still find action underneath the Chicago Avenue bridge if you know when to look for it.
Around 1900, when immigration into American cities was at its peak, old hands liked to fleece newbies using loaded dice. They called the fixed game “the double dirty.” I thought it was perfect for Overboard, which deals with the way modern corporations put in the fix, so that the ordinary person is always playing against megacorps who use loaded dice.


Unfortunately, a title check turned up 10 books already named Double Dirty. These were all extremely raunchy porn. One even involved horses, at least as far as I could tell from the cover art. On the one hand, I could have grown my market in new directions. On the other, I would have spent months fielding angry letters from readers: I bought your Double Dirty and it had no instances of..…  Well, you fill in the blanks. In the fashion of today’s angry letter writer, many paragraphs of insults would follow, attacking me for not knowing what I was talking about when I wrote the novel.

Overboard sounds genteel, almost Austen-like in contrast. It refers to the overly emotional state many of the characters exhibit and, very literally, to the multiple dunkings characters have in the foul waters of the Chicago river. No horses are involved.
What are some of your favorite book titles? And why?

Short Bio
Sara's first book, INDEMNITY ONLY, was published in 1982. A perennial bestseller, she was named 2011 Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America and is the winner of numerous awards, including the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement from the British Crime Writers' Association and the CWA Gold Dagger. Not only has Paretsky's work broken barriers, she has also helped open doors for other women. In 1986 she created Sisters in Crime, a worldwide organization to support women crime writers, which earned her Ms. Magazine’s 1987 Woman of the Year award. She has received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from several different universities. Sara has also done a great deal of work with and for organizations that advocate for those on society’s margins, and in addition to her novels, Sara has written numerous short stories and three works of nonfiction. OVERBOARD is the 22nd in Sara's beloved V.I. Warshawski series.

Links

OVERBOARD

Legendary detective V.I. Warshawski uncovers a nefarious conspiracy preying on Chicago's weak and vulnerable, in this thrilling novel from New York Times bestseller Sara Paretsky.

On her way home from an all-night surveillance job, V.I. Warshawski is led by her dogs on a mad chase that ends when they discover a badly injured teen hiding in the rocks along Lake Michigan. The girl only regains consciousness long enough to utter one enigmatic word. V.I. helps bring her to a hospital, but not long after, she vanishes before anyone can discover her identity. As V.I. attempts to find her, the detective uncovers an ugly consortium of Chicago powerbrokers and mobsters who are prepared to kill the girl. And now V.I.’s own life is in jeopardy as well.

Told against the backdrop of a city emerging from its pandemic lockdown, Overboard lays bare the dark secrets and corruption buried in Chicago’s neighborhoods in masterly fashion.


57 comments:

  1. SARA: Welcome to JRW! I have been an ardent fan of V.I. since the beginning. It's hard to believe I have been reading your V.I. books for 40 years!

    Book titles can be a challenge. They draw you in, or repel you.
    I must admit, I like quirky titles or those with double meanings.

    I like Don Winslow's books (The Cartel, Force, The Patrol) but it's his Neal Carey PI books (and titles) that I love: A Cool Breeze on the Underground, Way Down on the High Lonely, A Long Walk up the Water Slide, While Drowning in the Desert etc.

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    1. GRACE: thanks for the recommendation. I'll check out the Don Winslow novels.

      Diana

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    2. Thank you, Grace! (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  2. Congratulations, Sara, on your newest book . . . I’m looking forward to reading V.I.’s latest adventure.

    I’m always intrigued by the process of naming a book . . . so, book titles that caught my attention? Lynessa Layne’s “Complicated Moonlight” and Lisa Wingate’s “Before We Were Yours” because they sounded so intriguing; Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” because it grabbed my attention and made me choose it from the bookshelf . . . .

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    1. Joan: These are great titles! Diana

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    2. Hank Phillippi RyanMay 19, 2022 at 11:24 AM

      Yes, I love those!

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    3. Thank you, Joan! These are fantastic titles, for sure. (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  3. I've also been a fan since the beginning, Sara - congratulations one of the best long-running series around! Overboard is a great title. And, yeah, stay away from those porn titles - yikes!

    I do like to have a title in place when I write a book. I'll be starting to write a new series in two weeks. It'll be leaning cozy but not with crafts or baking or anything. I'm kind of done with punny titles, but my editor and I can't seem to agree on a scheme for something else. Well, there's time - the first book isn't due until December.

    Gratitude, always, to you and the handful of other women who started our beloved Sisters in Crime. I know I wouldn't be published without the support, workshops, and networking of SINC and its chapters. What a grand success - and one still learning and growing.

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    1. EDITH: I loved the titles of your Quaker Midwife mysteries. I love punny titles, especially for bakeshop mysteries. Your mysteries always have wonderful titles. It does not have to be punny titles if the story fits the title, right?

      Diana

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    2. Exactly, Diana. The publisher made most of the Quaker Midwife titles, and I loved all of them.

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    3. Thank you so much, Edith! I'm so happy that SiC continues to thrive. (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  4. While I've read the whole series, I can't say that I was there at the very beginning. However, Sara Paretsky was one of the very first series I started reading once I began my journey down the mystery/thriller road. And to this day, V.I. Warshawski remains one of the best. I can't wait to get my hands on Overboard!

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    1. Thank you so much, Jay! (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  5. Welcome Sara, we're so pleased to have you visit! I struggle with titles--for some books, like the WIP, they just won't make themselves known. And others that I've thought perfect, the publisher changes. Yours sounds like a wonderful lead-in to the book.

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    1. LUCY: I loved your SCONE title about the mystery when Hayley and her family travelled to Scotland. That is my favorite of all your novels.

      Diana

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    2. Thank you, Lucy! (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  6. Congrats Sara on your book release.

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    1. Thank you, Dru! (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  8. Sara, with all that has happened in the last couple years--in the world, and in your personal life--I am in awe that you could manage to write this book. But that's women, right? Strength in adversity, and doing what needs to be done. V.I. is a perfect example of such quiet power, and it's a good day to know there's a new Warshawski story coming to an e-reader near me!

    I sold life and other kinds of insurance in another chapter of my own story, and this series has always felt like home to me. Thank you for the many hours of entertainment, but also, for all you have done for the dignity of your fellow humans, most especially women.

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    1. Thank you so much, Karen! I appreciate your kind words so very much. (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  9. Welcome, Sara! As you said, you could have grown your audience...but I'm not sure it's a direction you'd want to go.

    Titles drive me crazy. Sometimes I come up with them easily. Others, well, the book is almost done before I hit on the right one.

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    1. Thank you, Liz! (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  10. Lovely to see you here on JRW, Sara. I'm a long-time fan of V.I., whose character, politics and cases I love to read about.

    For me, titles are most important with a new-to-me author. Then I rely on the title to give me a sense of what I can expect from the book. With authors I know and love, the title is less significant.

    I can imagine how hard it is to come up with a title that ticks all the boxes for all the stakeholders involved; I love the scene in Julie and Julia when Judith Jones and Julia Child are coming up with the title of what became Mastering the Art of French Cooking -- with post-it notes on the wall. Hmmmm...is that really how it works?

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    1. Hank Phillippi RyanMay 19, 2022 at 11:25 AM

      Oh, I have not seen that part yet! But of course it could happen that way! xxx

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    2. Thank you, Amanda! That is a wonderful scene. Perhaps I should try post-its on a wall! (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  11. Great to see you here, Sara. I too am a long time fan of you and V.I.! Good decision on Overboard, which is a great title.

    I shared your recent FB post about the Supreme Court's upcoming ruling on reproductive rights with my activist book group friends. Inspirational!

    Please give your sweet Chiara a hug. I miss my sweet golden girl, Marley.

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    1. Thank you so much, Gillian! And thank you for sharing my post. I'm away from home at the moment, but will give Chiara an extra hug as soon as I'm back! (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  12. Welcome Sara! Double Dirty - who knew - you're right about the letters, but there is some room there for comic relief imagining the content! Titles are always hard, and sometimes have unintentional consequences.

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    1. Thank you, Kait! (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  13. SARA: Welcome to Jungle Reds and congratulations on your new novel! My Mom has been a fan of your mysteries since the beginning and I gave her a copy of OVERBOARD for Mother's Day. I remember meeting you, Nick Petrie and Margaret Petrie at a coffee cafe? near the Bouchercon conference in Toronto. It was wonderful to meet you.

    What are my favorite book titles? I love the Jane Austen titles like Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, amongst others. There are too many book titles. Off the top of my head: DEAD BODY LANGUAGE by Penny Warner, MESSENGER OF TRUTH by Jacqueline Winspear, THE VANISHING HALF by Brit Bennett, ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE by Agatha Christie (many of her titles are from nursery rhymes or other quotations), A IS FOR ALIBI by Sue Grafton, and HOW TO RAISE AN ELEPHANT by Alexander McCall Smith. There are many, many, many more bookish titles that I love. I think there are so many that I could write a novel listing all of the bookish titles that I love so much. OVERBOARD is a great title.

    Diana

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    1. p.s. I work as a paralegal for a Worker's Compensation attorney. Interesting work.

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    2. Thank you, Diana! Please give your mom my very best. I love Jane Austen's titles too. (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  14. Thank you for coming to JRW's. Thank you for being Sara. I am drawn to titles that offer a rye take on a cliche. Like "The Hand that cradles the rock" or "Kittens can kill" I also like a line from a poem that tells me where the book might be headed.. "In the Bleak Midwinter", "By schism rent asunder" or just the one word that says look inside . like.. Overboard.

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    1. Thank you, Coralee! I certainly agree about clever takes on cliches and lines from poems! (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  15. We're so excited to have you here, Sara! As for titles, I'm one of those people who can't get started until I have a title, even if it doesn't make the final cut. I established myself as someone with loooong titles, because they originate with hymns, and I've come to really like other longer, distinctive titles (for ex., THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD by E.J. Copperman) in part because, embarrassing as it is to admit, I can remember them better. Yes, I've become the woman who tells the librarian, "It was about a family, and had a blue cover?"

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    1. Thank you, Julia! I think we've all been there with forgetting the titles of even beloved books. Luckily, librarians are very understanding--and knowledgeable! (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  16. Hank Phillippi RyanMay 19, 2022 at 11:22 AM

    Oh my goodness, we are so thrilled you are here! Hooray hooray hooray! And how exciting to have yet another near series… I am reading it this very instant! I taught at a writing seminar this weekend, and titles were so much a topic of conversation. It makes such a difference! We changed one title from Passing Fancies to The Bicyclist— doesn’t that sound like a bigger book? and we changed The Pizza Shop on Venus to The First Pizza Shop on Venus. Isn’t that so different ? It is always so fascinating! And I think Overboard is great. The title – – and the book! Xxxxxxx

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    1. “In your” series, not “near.” I fear I will never get good at proofreading my dictation…

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    2. Thank you so much, Hank! I completely agree that titles make such a difference, and the ones your seminar came up with are fantastic. (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  17. It is so lovely to have you here, Sara! And to have a new V.I. to look forward to! Although I must say I loved Double Dirty. Titles are such a challenge, aren't they? But I love coming up with them and, like Julia, I have to have title from the beginning. I've only had one title that didn't make the final cut, and I still like my original title better.

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    1. Thank you, Deborah! Now I really want to know what those original and replacement titles are ;) (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  18. Victoria Iphigenia Warshawski is my measure for hard-boiled female detectives. Probably even real ones. And I love her name. I am so happy to have another story about her to read. I can appreciate how hard it is to come up with the right title but I don't really have a favourite. I like them to be descriptive and evocative, like Pride and Prejudice or Arsenic and Old Lace.

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    1. These are two of the best titles ever! (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  19. I look forward to every new book by Sara, knowing they will be intelligent, passionate, and thrilling. As to titles, I had little trouble coming up with them for my first 3-book series, but seem stuck in a rut now that I’m on the fourth in my new series. Sara’s titles are part of what readers enjoy figuring out. -susan c shea here

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Susan! (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  20. Sara, congratulations on your new V.I. book. You are one of the most interesting authors/persons I follow. You participate so fully in the world, not just writing fabulous novel but digging in on topics that concern our country and our world, especially or women. I love to read your FB postings and learn from them. Your starting Sisters in Crime and encouraging new authors shows just how involved and generous you are. The mystery/crime community is so lucky to have you.

    Titles. I love them. I'm especially fond of alliterative titles, double-meaning titles, quirky titles, and titles that lead you into the story. You and the Jungle Red authors have some of the best. Hank's titles always thrill me with the multiple meanings revealed throughout the book. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell is a title that leads the reader into the story and a favorite of mine, both title and book. Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan is one of those quirky titles that lives up to its great name. Ovidia Yu's title Meddling and Murder is an example of the alliteration I enjoy, and, again, the book was great. And, rhyming titles like Lucy's Key Lime Crime are fun, too (and in a series I love). One of my favorite of Hank's is the double meaning title of Trust Me, where "the mantra of 'trust me' runs throughout the book, different characters asking another one to “trust me” that I am the bearer of the truth ..." (from my review of it). And other great Jungle Red titles include In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia, Careful What You Wish For by Hallie, A Bitter Feast by Debs, Rhys' fun Evan Evans series titles, and Jenn's Death by the Dozen and other quirky and alliterative titles. The rhythm of your book titles is great, too, Sara, with the two words and then the bonus of double meaning. I will absolutely pick up a book based on its title.

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    1. Thank you, Kathy! These are fantastic titles, indeed, and I've also loved some of these books; I need to read the ones I haven't!. (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  21. Hi, Sara! Congrats on your latest release! I can’t wait to dive in (sorry, couldn’t resist)!

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    1. Thank you, Jenn! (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  22. We are SO THRILLED to be hosting you, Sara! our book is getting a great sendoff! Seems like I see it everywhere. If we were talking *character names* I'd have said V I Warshawski is one of the greats. WHen I land on a book title, I do what you did and see what other recent books have had that title. I once wrote a mystery titled ADDICTION. Not a good idea - at many events I had folks who thought they were there to learn about a new 12-step program.

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    1. Hi, Hallie! Thank you so much. I can imagine that those events were interesting! (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  23. Sara, congrats on your latest book! And, of course, I'm indebted to you for starting up Sisters in Crime. I wouldn't be a writer without solid community.

    As for titles, I usually come up with names for my books after I've written everything. I feel like titles need to really capture the essence/vibe of the story. (I also like to Google titles just to make sure they're not already taken.)

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    1. Thank you, Jennifer! (This is Erin typing for Sara, as she is connection-less at the moment. So any typos are my fault!)

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  24. I love V.I.'s mission to protect those who need help, the old, the young, those with less power . . . no matter how much danger or how uneven the odds. My teacher heart especially loved her standing up for teens. I didn't have as much time to read for fun when teaching, and before that when working as a Prudential Agent, but now I can, and I've devoured them! Thanks for pushing to write in difficult times, and thanks in advance for future books. <3 (Reviews submitted today, sorry they only allow five stars).

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