Jennifer Brown is the debut author of the soon-to-be-released-tomorrow book, Hate List. You can find out more about Hate List here, and you can visit Jennifer here.
Thank you so much for inviting me to share my title/cover story with you, Kelsey!
I'll be the first to admit that I've always been epically horrible at writing titles. To make it worse, I've grown accustomed to writing for the newspaper, where my editor routinely changes my title for me anyway, which is another way of saying I'm now horrible and lazy with title-writing. I tend to just "stick on" a working title while I'm writing a project, and then by the end of the writing, I've gotten so used to the working title, I don't want to do anything to change it so I just go with it.
That said, my "working title" while I was writing "Hate List" was "To Kill a Year," which is so far off the Stink-o Title Scale, you really can't even see it from the ground. It sounds like some combination of a Harper Lee novel with a 007 movie, don't you think? So even I could see that, as soon as the book was finished, that title had to go. I decided to re-title it "Hero."
Now, in all honesty, I loved "Hero" and was really married to it. Thought it really nutshelled the book, and had this metaphorical quality to it. But my agent quite accurately pointed out that the title made sense if you'd already read the story, but didn't really do much to tell you what kind of book you were picking up off the shelf. Good point.
I brainstormed a little. But remember me? Rotten title-r? Yeah, I didn't get far. I came up with something totally different, and not at all inspired: "Wallpaper Horses." Nobody -- including me -- was in love with that one.
Fortunately, my editor at Little, Brown did some brainstorming as well and came up with a few much better titles. For a time, I considered sticking with a "Hero" twist -- maybe "Not a Hero" or "Nobody's Hero" -- but after chatting some, we decided that "Hate List" really fit the best. After all, it is a "Hate List" that is central to the story. So I wish I could take credit for the title of my book, but in reality... yeah, it was an editor saving my title-challenged butt once again.
While writing "Hate List," I definitely had a clear image of what I thought the cover art would look like. In my head, it was a spiral-bound notebook, filled with names, scratch-outs, doodles. Maybe tear-stained. Maybe covered with eraser-shavings, a pencil having erased some of the previously-written names.
But I wanted to be open to anything and everything Little, Brown had in mind, so I just waited to see what they came up with before I expressed any of my own ideas.
I was actually on vacation (Disney World) the day my cover art came through. I woke up to a text from my agent and spent half the morning scrambling to find Internet access so I could view the cover of my book. What I found was so different from what I'd been imagining... and so much better!... it just took my breath away.
Probably what works best for me about the cover is that it sets the tone so well for the story that's inside. As someone who writes in two genres, I was a little afraid that fans of my humor work would pick up "Hate List" expecting something funny. I think the cover art makes it clear that "Hate List" is a serious story.
I asked for no changes on the cover art. I love the design, I love the colors, I love how original and striking it is. I love everything about it.
Thanks again! This was fun!