categories: Cocktail Hour
It’s a great day when your next book cover turns up. If you like it, and I like this one. (It’s not a great day when a bad cover turns up…) I’ve had this image in hand a while, and an image appears in my post about Book Expo America, but let this be the official unveiling! Not only of the cover, come to think of it, but the title. My pen name was a foregone conclusion, as I’ve used Bill Roorbach a long time, though I did contemplate using my real name for a change: Roxford Lumpenworth (numerous high-school friends still call me Roxy, college friends Lumpy).
For several years of drafting, the working title of the book itself was The High Side. But that didn’t grab even me. The one thing it had going for it was that it pointed to a place–a key mansion in the book–and had a few meanings possible, didn’t focus too much on any one aspect of the story. Which is that a high-school football star lives across the way from that mansion. Famous people live in it. His life gets tangled with theirs permanently, tragically. In the course of the book, I mean. And this takes decades to play out, and several career changes for our hero, also love stories. How do you get one title to hold all of that and still leave room for interpretation? You could use the protagonist’s name (a la Garp), but this guy’s name is David. Not Gessner. Hochmeyer. His nickname is Lizard. But can you call a book with sweeping attention to time and many sex scenes Lizard? Many agreed not.
The new title took some months to come up with, but at a time when we actually had months, wonderful. I made lists. My editor made lists. My agent made lists. My friends made lists. My lists made lists. The story covers so much ground that it was hard to come up with a title capacious enough. You’d think of a great one, but realize it really left out two-thirds of the book. The word giants came into play early on, but how to use it? Land of Giants was one big idea. But my agent shot it down: “Everyone will think it’s about San Francisco.” So that meant I couldn’t call it Big Apple, either, though New York has a role. I thought if I could just rename the mansion, I’d have a title! But that’s harder than it sounds, too. Because great mansion names (think “Elsinore”) aren’t great novel names, or not for this novel, anyway. Titles like REVENGE have already been used by others, and sucked the first ten times around. Content pointing titles are good, of course. So SENSITIVE LITERARY THRILLER ABOUT A KID WHO LIVES ACROSS FROM FAMOUS PEOPLE AND HIS LIFE GETS TANGLED WITH THEIRS was very, very close.
I spent a half hour on the phone with Gessner batting titles around like shuttlecocks. Giants this and Giants that. On an index card on my desk, the title Life Among Giants languished a while among other titles with the key word: GIANT DAYS. GIANTS IN THE MIST. FOR WHOM THE GIANT TOLLS. It was on a Giants list my editor had seen, too. Then one day, time getting shorter, she revisited all my 221,000 emails about titles and happened across that one, kinda liked it, had overlooked its humanity-saving properties the first time around. She tried it in-house and got very strong positive reactions. And as for me, I’d thought of it, so was inclined to like it. And overnight its hooks got in me. It’s got scale, it covers my pages.
So here it is. Cover, title, and all. The rest, the writing part, you have to wait till November 13. A very good idea is to pre-order it at your favorite bookstore. A good idea for me, I mean. Because then your favorite bookstore will be aware of it! Be the first on your block, that kind of thing. It’s also going to be on CD. I will come to your house to sign copies wherever you live! Transportation not included!
Life Among Giants.