I don't know author Kiersten White. I doubt I'll ever meet her. I'm sure she's a lovely individual with talent and creativity to spare. She certainly doesn't look like me, have my voice or share my disdain for beets (well, I don't know about the last one, but my wife seems to think I'm odd in that respect).

So, how come everyone seems to get our identities mixed up?

It's my fault, actually. Back in 2013, I published a compilation of short stories under the title Paranormalcy. I invented the title one night while nuking a chimichanga in my underwear (how it got in my underwear, I'll never...oh, never mind). I remember my train of thought pretty well:

"These stories are all sort-of Forteana / paranormal in theme, right? And didn't Warren Harding coin the term 'normalcy'? Mo miff I mafe (sorry, this is when I took a big bite from my chimy) *GULP*...So if I take the word 'paranormal' and merge it with 'normalcy', I get 'paranormalcy', which is a great, evocative title. And unique."

Except it wasn't and isn't. I didn't do enough research to find out if other books existed called 'Paranormalcy'. A month or so later, I noticed a lot of folks who were downloading my book had also downloaded Ms. White's, almost as if they were originally looking for hers, then stumbled onto mine by accident. In fact, Ms. White published her novel over two years earlier, which made me feel like a coat-tail-clinging lowlife.

Except I wasn't, and aren't. I can fully understand the process by which Kiersten White (or her publisher) arrived at her title. The novel involves paranormal characters and events, and has a protagonist struggling with normalcy in her life. The title flows beautifully from that logic. My process, on the other hand, was more of a play-on-words where I'm saying 'this is a collection in which all of the normal events within would be considered paranormal events in the real world'.

No comment about the ransom-note insanity required to link the paranormal with the 29th president, please.

Both titles work in their own respect and I probably received some interest from prospective readers just from the similarity alone. But if I had to do it all again, I'd probably pick something different. 'Paranormalcy' is Kiersten White's title, really.

Years ago, something in the same ballpark happened between the great Ray Bradbury and Michael "GettheetoaSubway" Moore. Moore released a documentary titled Fahrenheit 911, an obvious play on Bradbury's classic Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury was incensed, feeling his work had been used as an unauthorized shill for something else. I don't know if Mr. Bradbury shared Mr. Moore's political viewpoints and I don't care, but I remember being struck by his words during a radio interview I heard while making a cross-town delivery: "Michael, give me back my title".

The title of a piece, whether it's a 1000 page door-stop or a six-word opus about baby shoes, is the cherry. In fact, it's the whip cream, chopped nuts and cherry and hot fudge. A title is the first thing a reader sees. Boring titles will get less looks than ones with some sonorous turns-of-phrase. Movies are exactly like books in this respect. If you knew nothing about the actors or plot and never saw any sort of advertising to sway your decision, what would you rather plunk down $15 to see? Glengarry Glen Ross or The Verdict. Both are great movies (both screenplays are by David Mamet), but 'The Verdict' just sounds like something a guy made up out of desperation. Rather than the title be a painfully short synopsis of the plot ('The Blob' is about this blob thing), the title should be a sort of Chekhov's Gun, calling up some point central to the plot ('The French Connection', 'The Prestige', 'Jurassic Park'). I would make an exception in the case of full-blown character studies (i.e. 'Patton', 'The Dark Knight', David Copperfield'), as the titles in such cases are meant to be of the same secondary importance as the plot. 

Don't skimp on the title. Take a few days to think of something. Be original about it and do some research to confirm as much.

I hope Kiersten White doesn't feel the same way Ray Bradbury did. I have a hard enough time dealing with one woman mad at me for something stupid I did. But even so, I think everyone should check out her work. If you're into YA fiction, I hear she's pretty good.

Oh, and I'm hard at work on my next story collection. What am I going to call it?

'Paranormalcy 2', of course.


Everyone have a great week!