It started out as an idea sparked by the movie Quartet. How lovely, thought I, to retire to a place full of industry folk. Great, nearly great, obscure. All birds of a feather. Then came my beautiful monster, Cecibel, who embodied a great deal of my personal life then and now.
When I began writing the novel, it was called Traegar’s Lunatics. The agents at The Knight Agency (and later, my editor) didn’t like the title. It said nothing about the story, and the name was difficult to remember/pronounce, so it became The Pen, and sold as such to William Morrow. But those at William Morrow who heard the title consistently asked, “Oh, is it like Orange is the New Black?” So the title changed again. My editor liked the idea of titling it from a line in the book, and thus it became A Thousand Different Ways.
I loved that title. Though I remained partial to Traegar’s Lunatics, I did see where it wasn’t the right one for the book. A Thousand Different Ways worked on many levels. But the reps didn’t like it. Boo. It said nothing about who’s inside, gave no clue as to what the book is about, and that is as important as the cover where a potential reader is concerned. So we worked.
…and we worked…
…and we worked…
Several weeks of going back and forth–Beloved Agent Janna, Fierce-Lady Rachel (editor), and I–title after title. Nothing worked quite right for marketing. Finally, Rachel said, “Why not just call it The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and their muses)?”
Well, now–that pretty much says it all. I wasn’t sure I liked the title. I didn’t hate it, but love? Hmmm…then again, it does exactly what the reps and marketing want it to do. It’s kind of funny, because it’s verbose. Writers do love their own words. It tells a potential reader exactly what’s inside, in a kitschy, Wes Anderson (my daughter Grace’s assessment) way. It brings to mind titles like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. That, in a nutshell, is what we’re going for. A lightness (because the book does open with a marijuana-smoking octogenarian calling her psychiatrist a dick, in a very mercurial way, of course) within a much weightier story (it’s an old folks home where the old writers and industry folk live daily with death, after all.) The more I consider the title, the more I like it. Dare I say, love? Not yet, but I’m getting there.
I did my final read-through while sitting on the beach last week. I got to see what it’s going to look like inside with all the lovely chapter fonts and embellishments. Sigh. I enjoyed every moment of it. I’ve never just read my story. I wrote it. I edited it. I edited it some more. This final pass was as clean a read as ever I read. The only final edits I had were to delete a repeated ‘only’ here, or a ‘still’ there. When you can go over your own book for the gazillionth time and still love every word, it’s an indescribable joy even someone in love with her own words can’t quite express.
My part in the production of The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and their muses) is done. I’ve been asked how I feel about a June 2018 release date, considering William Morrow picked up the book early in 2017; my answer is, I like it just fine. The anticipation is luxurious. Like the countdown to Christmas, or my yearly retreat in Virginia Beach. Things are always happening. Sometimes small, sometimes big, but consistent.
Next, the cover. My heart just exploded a little bit.