The title that created a book

What comes first, the book or its title?

While the idea for The President’s Lunch was still very young in my mind – only a couple of days old, in fact – I joked to my husband Chris about a possible title. 

It was late in 2010 and the film The King’s Speech was only recently released. I hadn’t seen the movie, but it seemed as if every person I knew had not only seen it, but had also absolutely adored it.

Every conversation I had at that time seemed to begin with the other party asking excitedly, ‘Have you seen The King’s Speech?’. They stared at me in astonishment, mouths agape, when I told them I had not. Everybody wanted to talk about it.

So when Chris asked me whether I had a title in mind for my next novel, I replied wryly, ‘I should call it The President’s Lunch. It will sell like hotcakes.’

Voila! I had my title.

As silly as it may seem, once the title was set the storyline fell into place. I began to develop themes around cravings and appetites and the sustenance one requires for emotional satisfaction. The housekeeper, Mrs Nesbitt, moved into the background and it was the remarkable relationship of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt that shifted to centre stage.

Franklin & Eleanor
(image from FDR Library)
I read the First Couple’s biographies, memoirs, letters and diaries and the idea grew and took shape. It quickly became clear that Franklin and Eleanor were a couple with very different but distinct appetites.

I was chuffed! From the merest seed of an idea there had grown a lush tale of an extraordinary couple and their inner circle. 

Although the title was first spoken in jest, it became a perfect fit for the eventual story. In fact, the title helped to create that story.

What are your favourite book titles?

Further reading

If you’re interested in learning more about Franklin and Eleanor, check out:
  • Blanche Wiesen Cook’s two volume biography, Eleanor Roosevelt. Penguin Books. 1992 & 1999
  • The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt. HarperCollins, 1961
  • Jean Edward Smith’s award-winning FDR. Random House, 2007
  • Eleanor and Franklin by Joseph P Lash. W.W Norton & Company, 1971

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