We are delighted to welcome crime novelist Robin Donovan as our guest blogger today.
Robin's new mystery is Is it Still Murder, Even if She Was a Bitch? (WriteLife November 2011 Trade Paperback), which introduces Omaha ad agency owner Donna Leigh … and has a pretty provocative title.
And that title is exactly what she's writing about today. Robin is also offering one of our readers a chance to win a copy of her book! See below for details.
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When I first decided on the title for my murder mystery there was a lot of discussion. One of my editors hinted that the publisher would probably insist on a change; others suggested that using a word like "bitch" in a title could be self-limiting in a number of ways.
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In all honesty, when I first came up with the title: Is It Still Murder, Even If She Was a Bitch? it was kind of a joke. I had started my novel determined to create an amateur sleuth, Donna Leigh, whose adventures were compelling enough to warrant sequels. If I succeeded I wouldn't need a title; I'd need a series of titles. In the grand tradition of Grafton and Evanovich, I would need a catchy play on numbers or something that would take me from A to Z.
Initially I was intent on seeing if I could write a story that would even appeal to an audience; there was no time to focus on devising the perfect title formula. I just threw Claire's Murder at the top of the page for a placeholder, more than anything. I didn't want to commit to a title until I was convinced that it would maximize marketing potential; having worked in advertising for many years what else would you expect? I researched characteristics of "successful" titles, but held off on making a commitment until I was sure of what would be needed.
As my writing progressed, selection of a title almost became a reward in and of itself. If I could get far enough in my work to be convinced of its efficacy, I would permit myself to bestow it with a title. Nearing that point, the opportunity to discuss the title strategy with my business partner, a marketer I admire enormously, presented itself. I shared my theory on the importance of "the right approach" to the title or "series of titles" challenge. Her response was immediate and to the point "not on the first book, don't even worry about that on the first book." Well, that was it. She had freed me from title prison.
By this time the finished book was in its first round of edits, and I was extremely pleased with the manuscript. With time on my hands and the freedom to select a one-book title, I sat down and started to noodle around on a piece of paper. Almost immediately I wrote: Is It Still Murder, Even If She Was a Bitch? I dismissed it almost as immediately.
It was too long; I would offend people with the word "bitch;" It shouldn't be two clauses; I had a long list of reasons why it should be scrapped. But it made me laugh. So I replaced Claire's Murder at the top of the page with my new, but not seriously in contention, placeholder and I started getting some very interesting feedback. It got my attention.
The more people I talked to the more determined I became to leave this outrageous query as the title of my book. I work with talented writers; it made them all laugh. Coincidentally, I was in the process of filling a senior writing position at the time. Consequently, I had the pleasure of meeting many incredibly talented writers from all over the country. Many times the conversation turned to personal interests as we tried to size each other up as potential colleagues, and many times they talked of their own published works.
Each time my book title was mentioned the reaction was precisely the same, dead silence, a muffled laugh building to an enthusiastic guffaw, the spontaneity of which assured me that I had caught them off guard, robbing them of their finely honed ability to elicit a carefully guarded and measured response. That laugh was always music to my ears; it was far more rewarding for me than any of the accolades that inevitably followed!
As I labor to promote the book, I am still always elated by the strong reaction to my title. Not everybody loves it, but nobody ignores it.
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Robin Donovan was born and raised in New Jersey but lived and worked in Connecticut for a number of years before moving to Nebraska in 1999. Starting her career as a high school English teacher, Donovan moved into advertising in the early 1980s. She is the author of the blog, Menologues, a humorous yet informative look at the trials and tribulations of menopause by someone who’s been there. For more information about Robin, visit her website at RLDonovan.com.
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About Is it Still Murder, Even if She Was a Bitch?:
How does one react to the shocking news that a former colleague has been brutally murdered? Worse yet, you realize that your vitriolic relationship with the victim could land you squarely on the suspect list. That's exactly what happens to Donna Leigh, the energetic and somewhat sardonic owner of an Omaha ad agency, who jumps right in to the investigation – despite annoying menopausal symptoms – in order to keep the wolves away from her door. She manages to amuse as well as impress with her effective but unorthodox sleuthing.
As Donna and her colorful colleagues work feverishly to solve the case, they leave a trail of unintentional destruction in their wake; from injured police officers to collapsed buildings. Donna and her team stir things up enough to make the murderer nervous; after Donna receives a threat to "back off" things take on a more serious bent for her, but not for her ever vigilant colleagues who continue to animatedly bungle their way through the investigation until the murderer is behind bars.
For a chance to win a copy of Is it Still Murder, Even if She Was a Bitch?, courtesy of the author, visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Robin Donovan: Is it Still Murder, Even if She Was a Bitch?" contest link, enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (3901) for a chance to win! (One entry per person; contest ends April 18th, 2012.)