When I was writing Indians, my wife told me repeatedly that the title had to go. The only problem: I couldn’t think of anything else to call it.
You see, the book is largely about a binational street gang called Barrio Azteca (or Los Aztecas in Mexico). The gang uses Aztec imagery in their tattoos and such and refer to one another as “Indians.” I don’t belabor the point in the book, and in fact the reference to the “Indians” nickname is fairly brief, so unless a reader is really paying attention, the title may not make a whole lot of sense. “Where are the Indians?” the unwary reader might say. All around you, I would reply. Then they would throw the book at me.
Anyway, my wife knew before the book was even finished that this was too esoteric a name to give the book. But like I said, I had no good alternatives in mind. That continues to be the case today, which is unfortunate because I’ve been asked to come up with another title. Uh-oh.
I got kind of lucky with The Dead Women of Juárez. My working title was The Dead Women, and the book was shopped around with the much more generic title of North Pass. Once it had been picked up by Serpent’s Tail, I lobbied to have the original title restored. We came to a compromise with the final iteration of the title, as … of Juárez pinned down exactly where the story was taking place.
Ideally Indians would have a title like that: one that tells the reader what it’s all about and where it takes place, all in one fell swoop. It’s a given that I would have attached such a title to the project myself, but I would have had to come up with one first and, as we’ve seen, that didn’t happen.
What do I do? Well, I can start by asking the three people who’ve read the book for ideas they might have. It’s the first step that makes the most sense to me. So I immediately dispatched emails to those people with a request for suggestions. But I have to be prepared for the eventuality that they will be no more inspired than I am, thus leaving the task entirely up to me.
And I’m the guy who came up with the dodgy title in the first place.
This is one of those times when having a small circle of readers works against me. Not that I want to be out there spreading around my unpublished manuscripts to anyone with a pair of eyeballs, but when your core audience is three, you have limited options when something like this comes up. Of course, it someone reads my (brief) description of Indians posted to the blog and comes up with a snappy title then all my problems are solved, but barring that….
There was a point when I used to agonize over titles before writing even one word of a manuscript. I’ve kind of let that slide of late, just tossing on whatever comes to mind and getting to the important part, which is the writing. Unfortunately this time that’s come around to bite me on the rear, and it’ll keep biting me until I can figure this thing out.