Have you ever wondered how a short story collection comes into being?
Some writers set out to create a series of stories that are linked or that are based around a theme. Other writers accumulate short stories over the span of their careers and when they have enough for a collection, then attempt to get them published. This is how The Sand Eggs came into being.
When I came to collate The Sand Eggs and we began to discuss a title and what to put on the back cover, I realised that the stories had a similar thread of alienation and isolation. Unintentionally, I had created a theme.
We thought, or I could say fought, long and hard over the title for the collection.
I initially came up with the title: ‘She’s not ugly, is she?’ This is a line from the story, The Jewel of Trabzon, where the women talk about the narrator in a foreign tongue, unaware that she can understand them.
What I liked about this line was its strangeness, its slightly shocking element, and that it sounded like a translation from another language: In English we'd say 'She’s quite attractive, isn’t she?' rather than 'She’s not ugly, is she?'
My publisher felt that using ‘She’s not ugly, is she?’ as a title would be too confusing, have too many negative connotations, and would pigeon hole the collection as a woman’s only read. Intuitively, I knew it wasn’t the right title, but I hung onto it for few months, and touted it around among friends, got a mixed response and gradually began to think about another title.
My editor came up with the title ‘Going Astray’.
This was my email response:
I've been thinking about a title.
I don't think anything using the word 'astray,' works, as in modern usage it implies someone having gone off course and in these stories I feel the people have never found or been on the right course in the first place. What I want to create is a feeling of powerlessness, something not quite understood, something not quite right, but I don't want to make it feel too morbid or sad. Looking at titles of other short story collections, either a title of one of the stories has been used, or a line from a story.
Here are some titles I have come up with:
A Fractured Web of White
The Five Wives of the Liquorice Man.
Touching in the Dark - or Darkness (the former is a song title)
The Sand Eggs – Which I think is the only title in the collection worthy of use.
For some reason I am intuitively drawn to The Sand Eggs. I’m not sure why I haven’t thought of it before.
My publisher wrote straight back. Yes. The Sand Eggs, it is.
The cover for The Sand Eggs was the first and only cover design.
I liked it immediately. I thought the image worked perfectly to create a feeling of sadness and beauty.
To be continued …..