Back in 2011, when my novel was but an impulsive neuron playing Parkour across synapses somewhere in my brain, the title of my Magnum Opus was going to be The Bus Drivers. Shortly afterwards, that febrile neuron had to face the discipline board and its wiser elders settled upon Resilience as the working title for my book. The original title survives in the text as a little aside in a conversation––so you’ll be able to find out what I was thinking.
Resilience served me well over the intervening years. It was short and snappy and reflected the fundamental optimism and strength of the novel’s diverse characters in the face of harrowing problems.
But Resilience is also vague and, as a recent beta reader commented, it makes the novel sound like a self-help book. Brrr.
I have considered around 25 alternative titles over the past six years. Lost in Thought. An Imperfect World. Yarra Blues. The Young and The Fallible. The Possibility of Happiness. Yuk yuk yuk. I thought each of them was great––for about 24 hours. Tip for authors: settle on a title in the cold light of morning.
So what I finally came up with was The Shadows Cast by a Falling Child. It refers to a seminal event in the opening chapter of the novel that keeps reverberating throughout the book, shaping the protagonist’s outlook, priorities and responses. I chose to use the plural ‘shadows’ as being more dynamic. Marcel Duchamp’s 1912 painting Nu descendant un escalier (Nude Descending a Staircase) came to mind: shifting, multi-layered, not easily processed. My novel shares some of those descriptors: thematically it explores a wide range of subjects (including child protection and youth mental health); and while most characters are well–meaning, they are also flawed.
I recently commissioned a Writers Victoria manuscript assessment of my novel. That was a great experience. The positive feedback (“an intelligent and moving novel”) from a professional editor boosted my confidence; and her constructive suggestions for refining some of the characters have helped to define my work program for the upcoming final editing spurt.
Now that I have an advanced draft and a title I can also start scouting for a stunning, professionally designed cover (for e-book and print). Using a Shutterstock image (©iulias 2017) I have cobbled together the above mock-up of what that could look like (abstract rather than figurative) but I am open to suggestions!
Follow this blog to make sure you won’t miss out on the publication of The Shadows Cast by a Falling Child!