by Rosemary Harris, guest blogger
When Pushing Up Daisies was released last year I found myself fielding lots of questions and comments about a certain television show with a similarly catchy title. Frighteningly enough, an early version of my book cover even looked a bit like the show’s ads which haunted me at every bus stop in New York City.
I think I was gracious about it. My favorite “no, that’s not me” experience was with a gentleman at a library talk in Connecticut who refused to believe I was not connected with the program. After five full minutes of denying that I had a Hollywood deal, I simply thanked him and agreed that, yes, my mother was very proud of me.
There’s also a story behind the title of my second book, The Big Dirt Nap, which hits stores this week. (I love saying and writing that – hits stores – as if they’re being flung out of moving vehicles and miraculously land on bookshelves in stores.) There was some drama concerning the title. The working title was Corpse Flower, which everyone agreed didn’t exactly roll off the tongue. I hadn’t said it out loud much (just typed it) and when I did, for some reason, I was reminded of Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond saying “Ethel Thayer” over and over again. It had to go.
Much to the dismay of my editor, I rejected most other botanical titles as either too cutesy, too obvious or too excruciatingly nonsensical, e.g. Stalking the Corpse Flower – but it was getting late in the day. I remembered working with a man who told me that the name on his birth certificate was Baby Boy Johnson, because his mother couldn’t decide what to name him. (It’s still his nickname and far more colorful than the name she eventually gave him.) I started to think of my book as Baby Book Harris.
Weeks passed. The natives were getting restless. I finally came up with Dirt Nap. Some people loved it; others went “hunh?” Some thought it was too angry, too edgy, too obscure. (I’m eternally grateful to Julia Spencer-Fleming for being one of those who got the joke.) Still, people in-house were not 100% convinced.
Enter Hector DeJean, publicist extraordinaire, film buff, and quite coincidentally having the same name as the ambitious hotel bouncer/security guard in my book, who saved the day by saying five words. (Hector’s a man of few words.) “How about adding The Big?”
Eureka! The Big Dirt Nap. It knocked off some of the hard edges without making it totally wussy, and quietly paid homage to Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep -- always nice to acknowledge the masters. I liked it. Sales and marketing liked it. For all I know, people in the mailroom were polled too. And on February 17, I hope that you like it.
Rosemary Harris is the author of the Dirty Business Mystery series. The first title, Pushing Up Daisies, was a Mystery Guild Selection and was named to Library Journal's Best First Fiction List for 2008. Please visit www.rosemaryharris.com for more information.