How do writers choose the titles for their novels? When I think of some of my favorite authors, Mary Higgins Clark comes immediately to mind. She often uses the titles of old songs. For example, You Belong to Me, Let Me Call You Sweetheart and All Around the Town. James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club Series starts with 1st to Die and is up to The 10th Anniversary. And, Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone mystery series utilizes the alphabet: A is for Alibi through the latest, V is for Vengeance.
So, how do I choose my titles? Titles are very important to me. Since I write mystery/suspense, I want my titles to reflect the genre, at least to some degree, because I don’t want to mislead readers; I want to entice them. And, I like my titles to have a double meaning. Here’s how I came up with the title for my first mystery/suspense novel.
In Mixed Messages, a serial killer is attacking women in their Westwood homes, where the main character, Ann, her husband, David, and their two children live in the downstairs apartment of an old Victorian. David is an alcoholic and his behavior toward Ann is becoming more and more erratic; one minute, he’s the kind, loving man she married and, the next minute, he’s cold and cruel.
Lawrence Berger, the son of Olivia, Ann’s landlady, is infatuated with Ann. When, instead of the usual love poems from Lawrence, Ann receives several ominous biblical quotes, she is confused and frightened.
Desperate for someone to confide in, Ann tells their priest, Father Andrew, about her husband’s drinking and the problems in her marriage, but instead of consoling her as she expected, he points a finger at her and shouts, “Divorce is not an option!” He refers her to Dr. Susan Thatcher for counseling and, at her first session, Ann tells the psychologist, “I feel like I’m living in a world of mixed messages.”
How do you choose a title?