As any writer will tell you, finding the right name for your work is often a difficult job. Some people are superb at finding the right name but most people, including me, often struggle. To find the very best title is essential because, as readers will know, an intriguing title will make us pluck the book from the shelf just as readily as a striking cover image.m
So when it came to naming my historical fiction trilogy that recounted the history of astronomy, finding the correct title was vital. I needed something that conveyed excitement and intrigue, drama and astronomy. I didn’t want something that made the books sound like a work of non-fiction, which is the style of writing I am best known for.
Just occasionally, the right title will leap at you but most often it is a work of hard graft. The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth was a mixture of the two. This post explains how the names came about and how my Twitter followers helped me decide.
The individual book titles came to me with relative ease. As I was planning the project I was reading widely among the various historical books and even the letters written by my subjects. During this process I struck upon Galileo’s use of the phrase ‘dark labyrinth’ in his 1623 book, Il Saggiatore (The Assayer). Galileo was extolling the virtues of mathematics as the language of the universe; without it, he said, one is left wandering around a dark labyrinth. So, that immediately became my title for the first book, and the search was on to find equally good titles for the next two parts.
I dived into the works of my other real-life characters, with an eye open for catchy, intriguing phrases. I quickly settled on Newton’s phrase The Sensorium of God for book II and, after some months of searching, Georges Lemaître’s The Day Without Yesterday for book III. Amusingly, a number of people have commented that the third title sounds as though it should be a James Bond film. However, in trying to find a name to tie the books together into a trilogy, I became completely mired.
My agent Peter Tallack and I had started calling it CosmoThriller as a kind of shorthand while we were searching for a publisher who understood what we were aiming for with this book – which is to bring the story of astronomy to the widest audience possible by telling its story in as entertaining way as possible (say what you like, you can’t fault us for ambition). Thankfully in March 2010 we found that publisher in Polygon.
We all knew that CosmoThriller had to change; for starters, it could have been crime fiction set in a woman’s glossy magazine. But could we find a name we all liked? No way. Publicity, marketing, editorial - we all tried. None of us could think of anything that was meaningful and conveyed the same sense we had captured in the individual titles. What does one do after months of head scratching? Of course! You ask Twitter.
So, I posted this website entry and promoted it through Twitter and Facebook. As you can see nearly 1400 people read the post, most did not comment but a few did. The publishers and I were all ears (and growing a little desperate at this stage).
Then, Julia Wilkinson noted that I’d be hard pressed to come up with a trilogy title better than the individual book titles, but suggested some, including the Celestial Labyrinth. Hazel McGee posted independently to suggest Dark Labyrinth and suddenly, whilst watching the opening titles of The Empire Strikes Back (one of my ‘can’t-watch-it-too-many-times’ films and a movie I often wallow in when I need a little wide-eyed pick-me-up) the title was obvious.
I should do what George Lucas did and call the first one The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth Book I. Then the second is The Sensorium Of God: The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth Book II, and the third is The Day Without Yesterday: The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth Book III. So the trilogy is now called The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth Trilogy.
As promised in the original post, I’ll be sending a signed copy of the first book to Hazel and Julia as soon as I received them from the publishers. The book is due out in the UK in April and is currently attracting a 30% discount at amazon.co.uk. Also, if you can, catch me somewhere on my book tour - I love to meet my readers.
And thanks once again to Julia and Hazel.
Below is part one of an interview about The Sky's Dark Labyrinth in which I discuss the titles. The other parts of this interview will be posted on my YouTube channel. Feel free to grab them and embed them on your websites and blogs and don't forget to send me a link through my contact page so that I can say thank you!