My least favorite part of writing a book is coming up with a title. I always struggle with finding the perfect the words to sum it all up. When I finished writing the first draft of The September Sisters, back in early 2004, I wrestled with the title question for a little while before settling on Even to the Edge. This comes from a line in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, which appears in the book at one point. The poem says about love, “. . .it bears out, even to the edge of doom.” I wasn’t sure I loved it as a title, but I couldn’t think of anything better, so I stuck it on the manuscript and started querying agents.
Even to the Edge was the title all through the submission process. Every rejection letter I have (and I saved them all!) turned down a book with this title. Right after the book sold, one of the first things my editor said to me was that she thought the book needed a new, catchier title. I agreed, but I also felt a little stumped. The book had been Even to the Edge for so long, that I almost couldn’t imagine it any other way.
My editor and I both started brainstorming titles. My editor came up with Hearts of Stone (referring to that necklace you see on the front cover) which we both liked but didn’t totally love. I read through the book again, looking for lines that I could pull for a title. I made a list of maybe 20 possibilities, and just before I was about to e-mail my editor, it occurred to me to do something alliterative with sisters. I added to the bottom of the list either The September Sisters or The Sapphire Sisters.
My editor wrote back and said she liked The September Sisters, but she also suggested that the book could be called The Thing With Feathers, after the line in the Emily Dickinson poem “Hope,” “Hope is the thing with feathers.” My editor said she always thought of Abby like that little bird in the poem, fluttering around, trying to keep her head up. She also told me I could choose between the two, and she was fine with going either way.
I’m terrible at making decisions, especially big ones, so I asked my friends and family for advice. Nearly everyone liked The September Sisters better, but I still clung to the other title -- I loved that image of Abby as that bird. Then someone pointed out to me that there was already another book called Hope after the same poem. So it seemed clear that The September Sisters was the best choice. And now I honestly can’t imagine the book with any other title!
If you’ve read the book, you’ll notice that there’s a line in there that talks about how Abby’s mother called her and Becky “The September Sisters” because their birthdays are only one day apart in September. This was actually something I added into the book after we came up with the title. In the earlier version, their mother calls them “turtle twins” instead! Not quite as catchy, huh?
Jillian generously offered one signed copy of The September Sisters to one lucky commenter. You have until March 16th, 2009. That's one week from now. Sorry, US only! The comment has to include something about the OTO post.