For nearly all of 2019, I have wrestled with the title for my debut novel (releasing April 17th!). I am thrilled to finally announce that I have a new title, it is approved by my publisher, and it is ready to be revealed publicly!
As I wrote the novel over the last decade+, I called it by the first name of the main character: Tovi. About a year and a half ago, a friend who is super into the fantasy genre gave me some tough feedback. Basically: “The title Tovi is boring. It’s not going to make people pick up your book.”
Ugh. Knife to the heart. It was like calling my baby “ugly.”
Fast forward to last November. I took that feedback to heart as I prepared for another round of submitting my manuscript to publishers. I had no idea what to call the story, so I slapped on a new title: Snakes & Crowns. Something & Something titles are super trendy right now. And if you don’t do them right, they are also overdone and cheesy.
It never felt right. I wasn’t proud of telling people the title of my book, and I kept it secret in hopes that I would come up with a better title along the way.
I’m going to get into a WAY nerdier explanation below for those who are into world-building (hold on as I push my glasses up my nose and hide my D&D figures). But for those who are more like my mom, who was supportive but was not a fantasy fan (“Well, it’s not my thing, but I’m glad it’s yours.” -Bev Platt), here is the quick announcement!
After world-building with my buddy Mark, brainstorming with my pal and pastor Chris, some more brainstorming with my bestie Mandy, and a lot of sitting in front of a computer screen hoping for inspiration, I have a new title that is PERFECT.
Kingdom Above the Cloud will be hitting shelves on April 17th! Cover design is still in the works.
Read on for all the nerdy stuff!
The longer, nerdier version of this story
If you are a world-builder or fantasy fan, you will totally understand why I felt so unsettled about my title once I explain. Yes, I was afraid of being cheesy and cliche. But mostly, it was about the world in my story.
An important starting point is understanding the world of my main character. Tovi grew up in Adia, which is described like this in Chapter 3:
“Tovi lived in the land of Adia, a peaceful village nestled in a lush valley. Adians worked hard but didn’t know it, spending their days doing what they loved—building or gathering or anything that was both pleasant and occupying. They delighted in their sweat, blisters, and long days in the sun.
They lived in a sprawling network of tree-top cottages. Instead of inviting others to their homes, they would say, “Come to my tree.” Each little house had a thatched roof and open windows. Some had half doors, but the purpose was to keep small children in rather than to keep others out. Their community buildings were built in the same fashion, only much larger. “Main Street” was a cluster of trees so dense that it was hard to know which limbs belonged to which trees. Everywhere you looked there were bridges, rope ladders, and swinging vines connecting the general store, doctor’s office, cafe, meeting house, and so much more.
Adians lived in plenty and had a bountiful trading system. There was always enough of everything for everyone, and they all knew and loved the satisfied feeling of being tired at the end of a full and lively day.
The people of Adia were happy. At least most of them were. “
Two summers ago, I went to Mandy and Mark’s house with the sole purpose of getting some world-building coaching from Mark. Mark is that friend who introduced us all to D&D. While we don’t take it nearly as seriously as true D&Ders and the rest of Mark’s friends, we love it and have a blast with our
ridiculous awesome and hilarious scenarios.
Anyway, Mark’s knowledge as a Dungeon Master and fantasy genre junkie was invaluable. It was Mark who helped me realize how young the land of Adia and the surrounding world are. It is a pretty compact world, and there are only a few centuries of history.
That’s when it smacked me in the face. Of course! This story is part of the world’s creation lore, likely passed down orally from one generation to the next in the form of inspirational and harrowing stories, much like parts of the Old Testament. It’s that story that every kid in the village knows by heart, like Noah’s Ark or David and Goliath.
And if this is that type of story, I just KNEW it would not be called Snakes & Crowns. Snakes and crowns are two symbols, similar to tattoos, that people “earn” when they are on Mount Damien and learn one of King Damien’s evil lessons. See this post for a synopsis of the story.
The snake and crown symbols are important to Tovi’s journey on the mountain, but they are not the main point of the story. Snakes & Crowns was all sorts of wrong! I started hating that title even more…
I pictured elderly Adians telling the story to youngsters gathered around them. What would they call it? How would they convey the message that is hidden within the story?
A series title came to me pretty quickly. I knew, based on the mental image above, that my series should be called Tales from Adia. Each book will be one of the spiritual heritage stories of this community.
And I knew that this story, the story of Tovi’s journey to Mount Damien and all that happens to her there, is meant to teach Adian children about the love of Adwin (their God), evil King Damien’s legacy, and the perils of leaving Adia to travel to Damien’s kingdom on the mountain.
A key detail that is mentioned several times in the book is the layer of cloud that encircles Mount Damien (see the map above). It is always there, separating the top of the mountain (with its evil city) from the rest of the green world below. Most people are scared of the cloud, and no one goes near it.
As I discussed this with Chris, my mentor/pastor/friend, in a two-hour phone conversation in which we dissected a million title possibilities, we determined that the title had to be something about what goes on above the cloud. As the people of Adia sit in their treehouses, telling this tale to children, they would be looking up into the distance, pointing at the cloud and telling the story of what happened to Tovi when she went through it.
I listed SO MANY titles that had “cloud” in it. And then it just popped into my head and I knew it was the right one.
Kingdom Above the Cloud, releasing April 17th, 2020! EEK!