Kristan Higgins talks Finding the Title

in Fiction by

If You Only Knew is an absolutely perfect title for my latest book. It sums up so many scenarios in the story—if you only knew what your husband was doing in his free time. If you only knew why someone stopped loving you. If you only knew why another guy gives off such mixed messages. If you only knew how things really were when you were a kid.

51aX9HnP-iLIt was the thirty-seventh title choice, believe it or not (I counted). In a perfect situation, a phrase leaps out at me, and boom, we have a title. Other times, I need a title before the book is finished so Harlequin can get the wheels in motion.

But picking a title out of thin air can be hard. I’ll get the dreaded email from Susan, my beloved editor: I know it’s a little early yet, but any ideas for the title? Then she and I will go back and forth with ideas. Then send three or four of our favorites to the Marketing Team for their thoughts.

For this book, we initially thought we’d try to use the word secret in the title. Or lies. I suggested Secrets, Lies and Wedding Dresses, but that didn’t quite work. Secrets, Lies and a Few Good Men was another fail (obviously). We did a dozen or so combinations. Nothing was great.

Then Marketing suggested something using summer or sisters. But the market was glutted with titles featuring those words. How about geography? The book is set in a town on the Hudson River, which wasn’t all that compelling for a title. Hudson River Sisters sounded like a book about mermaids.

I asked my writer friends, who ended up getting quite silly with titles like This Is a Great Book and Wine for Breakfast (which has nothing to do with anything, but still got us giggling).

Finally, in frustration, I asked my sainted mother. “We’re trying to convey some sense of secrets, lies and, uh, lies and secrets,” I said. “But we don’t want it to sound like a suspense novel or a murder mystery.”

“If You Only Knew,” Mom said.

“If I only knew what?”

“No, how about that for a title, dummy?” she said fondly.

My mouth fell open. “I love it!” I said, shooting off an email to Susan.


Good old Mom!

Which got me to thinking, what was there from my own life that I thought I knew, but really didn’t? Have you ever had that experience where you stumbled along through your life thinking you knew the real story about something, only to find out much later that you actually had it all wrong?

About Kristan Higgins

81LTQ0g7fEL._UX250_KRISTAN HIGGINS is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author and two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America RITA Award. Her books have been praised for their “genius level EQ, whippet-fast, funny dialogue and sweet plots with a deliciously tart edge” (USA TODAY). She lives in Connecticut with her heroic firefighter husband and two extremely advanced children, one shy little mutt and an occasionally affectionate cat.

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