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June 1, 2017

The Right Name

After one of my books is approved for publication I become almost maniacal checking Amazon to see when they make it available for sale. Nothing was different with my latest YA novel, Barberry Hill. I searched for the title and, what you see above is what I got: ‘Showing results for Burberry Hill.’ Wait what? No!


I knew going in that it was an odd name, but for me the name felt as natural as the ocean breeze and for most of the process I never considered that the book might be called anything else. I visited a botanical garden in 2013, came across the Japanese Barberry bush, and fell in love. Don’t ask me why it appealed to me so, but, when I conjured up a story set on a hill in St. Kitts and decided I wanted the specific location to be fictitious so I would not be bound by existing physical constraints, I chose to call the hill Barberry Hill. I’ve always struggled to name places and characters in my book, and perhaps it is because the name came to me so organically that I never questioned it, never typed it into a search box, it just felt right.

There was one time, before we were ready for publication, when I considered changing the title. The book involves what we in the Caribbean call ‘barrel children.’ These are children whose parents live abroad usually to make a better living, and send home barrels of goodies for the children they have left behind. The book also involves guns. And so I thought of renaming it ‘Through the Barrel.’ The idea was nixed by editors and critical readers alike-the book focuses on the social stratification of the society as reflected on the slopes of Barberry Hill and so the title stayed.

What’s your process for naming a book? I hope you are smarter than I am and you enter it into a search engine in advance to make sure your potential readers won’t be directed to a completely different product.

P.S.
A few days ago it occurred to me the perfect name might be ‘Barberry Hill Boys‘ since the story revolves around a number of boys who live on the hill. That idea excited me for a while until I realised that the first print run had already been ordered. There was no turning back.

Originally posted on NovelSpaces.

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