Monday, August 24, 2009

On The Outside: Kate Alender

Katie Alender is the very sweet author of Bad Girls Don't Die. You can visit her at her website here.


This book has been through so many titles! Probably because I worked on it for such a long time before even thinking about publication. At that point, I just needed a word that I could use when talking about what I was writing. (Because of course I couldn't say "my book"--in my mind, that was only something that REAL writers could say. I was worried that people would think I was a big old poser if I referred to it that way.)  
So I called it "Lost", and I called it "Gone", for a while, and I called it "Preoccupied," which I knew immediately was wrong, so I just typed "PRE" when I saved the document.  Then, after a while, I settled on "The Homecoming," which fits the story in a number of ways.    When I contacted an old colleague in publishing to ask if he'd look at the book, his first bit of advice was to change the name, because Cynthia Voigt's "Homecoming" is a classic in the YA category.    
I had to think fast, and I settled on "The Girl Least Likely," which was actually from a line that was cut from the book. Alexis, standing in the bedroom of a girl she never thought she could relate to, reflects that in contrast to the girl MOST likely to succeed and win awards and be voted most popular and best dressed, etc., she, Alexis, is the girl LEAST likely.  
That title made it all the way through the sale of the book.  Even though I hadn't been wild about it when I first pulled it out of thin air, by the time we had to think of a new title, I found myself attached to the old one.  But the folks at Hyperion thought there might be something out there that not only gave the attitude (like TGLL did), but also hinted at the ghost story.  My agent, editor, and I made list after list after list. 
I sat around thinking of scary words and arranging and rearranging them to come up with phrases.  I can't even remember the early favorites, but nothing clicked.  Finally, on yet another list, I was weary enough to make a joke. I wrote "Bad Girls Don't Die (sung to the tune of...)"--referring to the oldies song "Big Girls Don't Cry." I sent off the list.  
Soon after, my editor called and said, "There's one title EVERYBODY loves!"   And she told me which one.  And I seriously almost fell out of my chair! I was like, "Um... okay... are you sure?"   But of course she was sure.  
So I hung up and called my agent and was like, "Holy cow, what did I do?" and he was like, "Well, hmm." But we decided that we'd all wear the decision around for a while and see if it grew on us.  It took a little time, but it did grow on us. And now I can't imagine a different title.   
Probably a big part of what made it easier to envision was my beautiful cover, designed by Beth Clark of Hyperion.  The morning my editor sent it over, I sat down and clicked the file, not sure what to expect.  But when I saw the file, I was just blown away. They had tapped into the gothic side of the story, the spookiness and menace and the sense that things aren't right in this old house.  And of course, the icily elegant typeface makes the title, which could have been played as "in your face" and punky, just a part of the mystery and menace.  So that's the story of Bad Girls Don't Die.  
And I guess what I'd like to leave you with is, if you're writing a book--devoting all of that time and energy--never be embarrassed to say that's what you're doing. I mean, you don't have to run through the streets yelling, "I'm writing a book! I'm a writer!" But don't be afraid to take credit for your effort and your work in progress.  You're a writer, and it's a book!  
Thanks for having me as your guest, Kelsey!
Thanks Katie!


  1. Wow, Katie. Your post is amazing as always. This was a really cool story about how you decided on a title! And yea, I feel like if I tell people "I'm a writer or I'm writing a book" I'll be a total fraud. I just say things like yea I write for fun sometimes haha Bud I did annouce on my blog that I was going to try to write one.

  2. Awesome post! I have this book from the library- can't wait to read it(:

  3. Great review! I have this on my TBR list. It looks pretty good :P


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