When my first book was rolling round my head, I knew immediately what it would be called. After all, the fictional town of Bakerton had been my first inspiration, closely followed by its enigmatic and unorthodox sheriff, even before the crux of a plot ever developed.
But this got me to thinking: had other authors experienced name changes before settling on their seminal works? Of course they had!
Let’s start with our old friend F. Scott Fitzgerald. He toyed with Trimalchio in West Egg, Under the Red, White and Blue, and The High-Bouncing Lover, among others, before reluctantly settling on The Great Gatsby. As he himself noted about the title, “It’s OK, but my heart tells me I should have called it Trimalchio.”
Bram Stoker considered The Dead Un-dead, but eventually preferred Dracula, thus opening the door to later productions by Hammer Films and many others. The Undead, of course, is something entirely different!
Joseph Heller had a nightmare with numbers. He wanted to call his book Catch-18, but his editor pointed out that a book entitled Mila 18 had been released the previous year. Undaunted, Heller tried Catch-11, but the original Ocean’s Eleven film was then in cinemas, so the idea was scrapped. Heller toyed with several other numbers, before his editor went back to the number 11 and doubled it!
James Joyce’s 1914 book of short stories began as Ulysses in Dublin, but he changed it to Dubliners. Ulysses became a title in its own right when it was published in serial form in the American journal The Little Review between 1918 and 1920.
Then we almost didn’t have Pride and Prejudice! Jane Austen had chosen the title First Impressions; however, Margaret Holford had already published her novel First Impressions; or the Portrait, so Jane had to think again. Lucky for us, perhaps.
Who was it who said that the hardest part of writing was actually coming up with the storyline?!!