November 5, 2008

Guest Blogger: Karen E Olson

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Last year, I was lucky enough to be contacted by Karen E Olson to be part of her blog tour for Dead of the Day. We were both blog tour virgins. I was a bit nervous about it but it was a great experience and I guess it was for her too because she's back!

Today, as part of the blog tour for the newest Annie Seymour Mystery,
Shot Girl, I have a special guest blogger: Karen E Olson.

As a newspaper copy editor, I was charged with having to write headlines
for news and feature stories. This was never my favorite part of the job.
I love playing with the words, making sure everything was spelled right,
making sure the punctuation was correct, that the nut graph was where it
should be. But headlines? I wasn’t very good at writing them.

I learned how to write serviceable headlines: LOCAL MAN PROTESTS PLANNING
AND ZONING BOARD; SCHOOL BOARD CHAIRMAN TESTS PROGRAM; CITY WOMAN DIES IN
BOATING ACCIDENT. Sometimes I’d get lucky (a particularly snowy winter and
more snow in the forecast inspired me to write SAY IT AIN’T SNOW), but I
just never reached the heights some of my colleagues did. A good friend
wrote one of my favorites after a kid decided to try putting his tongue to
a flagpole like that kid in the Christmas movie: FROSTY FLAGPOLE TAKES A
LICKING AND KEEPS ON STICKING.

Coming up with titles for my books is akin to writing a headline. It must
be short, snappy, convey what’s going on in the story, and lure the reader
in, make the story seem worth the reader’s time.

SACRED COWS had no title for months. I’d tried to come up with something
cow-related, something journalism-related but to no avail. Finally, in
the middle of the night, I awoke and it was in my head. I scrambled to
write it down before I forgot it.

SECONDHAND SMOKE was originally BIRDS OF A FEATHER, since there are
chickens in the story. But Jacqueline Winspear has a book of the same
name, and it was nominated for some award, so I had to quickly abandon it.
I was editing a health and science story for the paper about secondhand
smoke when I said, Hey, what about that? My editor loved it.

DEAD OF THE DAY was originally WATERLOGGED. But it wouldn’t fit on the
cover. And anyway, you don’t want to give a reviewer the chance to write,
“Waterlogged is just all wet.” I was frustrated and told my friend Reed
Coleman about it, so he asked what the book was about. I explained that in
the first pages, the subject of the newspaper’s featured obit or “dead of
the day” wasn’t exactly dead. He looked at me and said, “You do know
that’s your title, right?”

SHOT GIRL was relatively easy. There’s a shot girl in the story. A girl
who sells shots in test tubes in bars and makes a lot of money. Granted,
there’s a double meaning to it, but SHOT GIRL is short, catchy and
definitely my favorite title to date. Maybe because it was so easy.

Does a title make you pick up a book? Does a title matter to you as
you’re looking for something to read?

Karen

A big thanks to Karen! I've always wondered how authors come up with titles.
Karen E. Olson is the author of the Annie Seymour mysteries. SHOT GIRL, the fourth in the series, is available now. You can find her on her website www.kareneolson.com and with her blogging cohorts at www.firstoffenders.typepad.com.
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10 comments :

  1. The title does certainly does influence me when I select a book. I can't imagine what it would be like to have a job writing titles. I sometimes have trouble writing the title for a post on my blog.

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  2. Me too Bermuda! I actually put off reading "O Pioneers!" because the title put me off. It's too bad because it's such a good book.

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  3. Titles are really difficult, mainly because you want to have one that does entice someone in the bookstore or library. I don't blame you, Chris, for turning up your nose at "O Pioneers!" It sounds like some sort of patriotic anthem, not a book. But a book with a title like ASSASSINATION VACATION (by Sarah Vowell) is going to catch my eye!

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  4. What a great post, Karen! I have to say that I've always liked your titles...and I still think WATERLOGGED was perfect! (When your book is as good as DOTD was, you don't have to worry about giving the critics easy shots!) Anyway, I finished SHOT GIRL this morning and loved it-the best of the series, in my humble opinion. I do hope Annie makes an appearance in Vegas. ;-)

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  5. So Karen, is the title the last thing you work on for your books? I like Waterlogged and that would have worked out great too but Dead of the Day is a title I'd definitely remember. There's something very catchy about it.

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  6. What a great post. I have always wondered how titles were chosen by authors or if they were chosen by publishers.

    I sometimes pick up books because of titles, like Christopher Moore's You Suck!

    In some instances, titles does lure me in but the story does, like it did for me with The House on Tradd Street by Karen White.

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  7. I'm turned on by wackier titles more often than I'm turned off by any bad ones-- though "We Need To Talk About Kevin" repels me(a close friend tells me I should read it, but I just can't).

    Karen, I have to say I like your approach to the blog tour. I had an author write a tour post on my blog before, and while I appreciated the hits, in the end it really felt impersonal, like she just sent something off to her publicist who then sent it off to me. I wondered if she'd even read my blog before or since. It was a shame especially since I am a fan of her writing, and have made that known. I appreciate that you not only threw out a couple questions at the end, but also that you took the time to read and respond to some of the comments.

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  8. John- Karen is awesome! I was going to write a post once about the right way to approach bloggers for tours but then I let it go. I fear many let the publishers handle it and don't know what happens in their name. It is a shame because we love writers and love to interact with them. Some authors just have the right touch. Karen is one of them.

    Thanks for the visit Karen!

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  9. Thanks so much for having me over here, Chris! Your blog is one of the first I discovered when I started looking for blogs about books. I do think that you and Iliana and Wendy and others do a superb job in picking up the slack now that the print media has lost space to review books. And your book discussions are insightful and entertaining.

    My publisher doesn't know your blogs. I found you and knew immediately where I wanted to go on my tour. And to those bloggers I've missed, well, I know you check in here, and maybe next time...

    Blog tours are the greatest. And I can write my posts in my pajamas!

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  10. What a great topic! And I think titles for my blog posts are difficult to come up with.

    Like book covers, titles can catch my eye and make me take a closer look at a book to see if it is something I might like to read.

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