Another question is which comes first, the title or the story? For me, generally it’s the title that comes first. Years ago, my brother commented that if he ever were to write a story about the South, he’d name it This Red Earth. At the time I was a teenager, and yet his title stuck in my mind. When I wrote my book about the rural South, his title haunted me. Although I tried developing different titles such as Between the Rivers, which referred to the Little and the Big Pee Dee Rivers in North and South Carolina, I always came back to This Red Earth. One title that I almost went with was Nobody Is Going to Heaven Holding Hands with Anybody Else. I still like that one, and I used it in one of my stories, but I didn’t title the book that because I felt it would send the wrong signal as to the overall theme.
Titles should be short, memorable, easy to say, and relate to the inside. I wanted my book to be That Red Earth instead of This Red Earth, but “that” didn’t work out. With the second volume, it was a no-brainer. I named the book Beyond This Red Earth because the main character had left that place between the rivers for another place she would call home.
When I wrote my book for junior readers about the Fort Wayne Flood of 1982, I didn’t have a title. Alas, it almost took me as long to come up with my title as it did to write the book. Crisis at Pemberton Dike refers to the crisis that occurred in Fort Wayne when the dikes and levees especially along Pemberton Avenue were breached, and the people in the "City of Three Rivers" —(the Maumee, the St. Joseph, and the St. Marys Rivers) -- worked day and night to save hundreds of homes and lives.
Recently I overheard someone call another person, “Genevieve.” I immediately began conjuring a persona and a plot. A name or a title, and an idea comes. It’s exciting to have these sorts of dilemmas.