Today I would like to give a warm welcome to author Sarah Grimm of After Midnight!
Crystal, thank you so much for inviting me to guest post here at Reading Between the Wines.
A lot of writers begin a story without a title in mind. They flesh out the characters, envelop themselves deep within the story, and never think about the title until a) one comes to them naturally while writing the book, or b) they are forced to think of one because they can’t submit without the title.
Not so with me. You see, I can’t lose myself in a story if it’s untitled. I can connect with the characters and flesh out their lives, but I can’t spend hours, weeks, and months bleeding on the page without giving that page a name. Talking with friends about my work in progress only works for me if that WIP has a title.
Imagine it: I’m raving about my newborn son or daughter, showing pictures to friends. They ooh and ahh over how handsome he is, and then someone asks, “What’s his name?”
I can’t reply, “I don’t know, it’ll eventually come to me.” Could you?
So the first thing I do is think about the tone of my book. Is it funny? Sexy? Serious? Does a consistent theme run throughout? Something that either the hero or the heroine needs to learn or acknowledge by the end of the book?
Once I’ve decided, then it’s time to brainstorm. I sit at my desk and make a list of words related to my book. Nothing is off limits. I write down everything I can think of that is related to my story, whether it’s an emotion, a setting, or a question.
At this point, one word usually jumps out at me – a word I KNOW has to be in the title. From there I play with word combinations and another list takes shape—a list of possible titles.
Here I should probably tell you that sometimes this method works for me, and sometimes…well, not so much. Take, for instance, the title of my first book, Not Without Risk. My original title for this book was Strength to Love. No really, that’s what I called it, which was better than my original title for After Midnight (and no, I’m not telling what that was called). Anyway, back to Risk…The farther I got into the story, the more I hated the title. It just wasn’t right. Then one day I’m typing along and the hero’s mother tells him, “To love someone, to have someone return that love is…It’s a risk, certainly, but what is life if not a risk?”
*insert light bulb*
There it was, the moment when the word clicked into place. Risk. Everything in that book revolved around risk, from the hero’s job, to taking a leap of faith and risking his heart in order to find love.
Here’s another confession. I have a compulsion to see the name of the book somewhere in the book. It doesn’t matter to me whether a character voices it, or thinks it; my titles have to be in the book. This need made naming, or should I say coming up with the correct name for, After Midnight even easier.
The original title broke my rule about following the tone of the book. It was too sappy, and gave the impression the book was light-hearted. I don’t write light-hearted. Yes, everything I write has its happily-ever-after. Yes, the hero and heroine always ride off into the proverbial sunset. But getting there is never an easy journey. I torture my characters, some more than others, and Isabeau Montgomery…she’s a tortured heroine.
Then it hit me. Isabeau owns a bar, the opening scene takes place in that bar after closing. In fact, most of the key moments in the book occur late at night. Night… Darkness… Midnight…aha! There it was.
Thirteen years—that's how long Isabeau Montgomery has been living a lie. After an automobile accident took her mother's life, Izzy hid herself away, surviving the only way she knew how. Now she is happy in her carefully reconstructed life. That is until he walks through the door of her bar... Black Phoenix singer/front man Noah Clark came to Long Island City with a goal—one that doesn't include an instant, electric attraction to the dark-haired beauty behind the bar. Coaxing her into his bed won't be easy, but he can't get her pale, haunted eyes nor her skill on the piano out of his head. Can Noah help Isabeau overcome the past? Or will her need to protect her secret force her back into hiding and destroy their chance at happiness?
His shirt sleeve slipped down as she pressed the warm cloth to his skin. She shoved it back out of the way.
“Wait,” he said as it slipped a second time. He reached his arm over his head. Fisting his hand in his shirt, he pulled it off.
There was something so inherently male about the move that she didn’t look away. Then, once he stood before her wearing nothing but his jeans, she couldn’t look away. He was built. His body was sleek, smooth, and leanly muscled. Lightly tanned, with hard six-pack abs and a dark blonde line of hair that started below his navel and trailed down to disappear beneath the waistband of his jeans.
Not that she was looking.
There was no doubt about it, he looked better than most men half his age.
“Is something wrong, Isa?”
Arousal clouded her mind. Her body thrummed with it. “What? No.”
But as she pressed the cloth against his skin, her hands shook.
She tried to keep her focus on the task at hand and off his chest, but it was right there. Suddenly she was hyperaware of the heat coming off him, of the scent of musk and man that swam through her senses.
“So what do you think?” he asked, his voice a whisper against her temple.
She thought she wanted to reach out and see if his skin was as soft as it looked, his body as hard. She swallowed. Her dry throat stuck together. “What do I think?”
“About the tattoo.”
“The tattoo?” Perfect. She sounded like an idiot. Heat flooded her cheeks. She could feel his eyes on her and knew he noticed. He had a habit of watching her in a way that made her toes curl, her stomach turn over. She’d caught him doing it on more than one occasion and knew if she tipped her head up, she’d catch him doing it now.
So she focused on his tattoo, and smiled.
Thomas had given him a small skeletal body, wings and a halo above the over-sized and even more animated skull. “It’s perfect.”
Trading the wet washcloth for a clean, dry one, she patted his arm dry, then applied a thin layer of ointment. “There you go.”
“Thank you.” Reaching up, he tucked a stray wisp of hair behind her ear.
Her breathing shallowed when his fingers grazed the side of her throat, caught as his other hand settled on her hip. Slowly her eyes raised, moved up his throat, past his dangerously tempting mouth, before she met his gaze and felt a punch of awareness.
“You have the most beautiful eyes,” he said, and shifted just a little closer.
Never had her eyes been called beautiful. Strange? Yes. Beautiful? Never.
“They change color depending on what you’re feeling, did you know that?”
“Right now they’re blue—a very pale blue. What does that mean, Isa? Tell me what you’re feeling right now.”
Desire. Need, unlike she’d ever felt before. She’d had no idea how much she’d craved a physical touch, his touch. Her stomach fluttered. Her heart skipped a few beats. She slicked her tongue over her lips, and his hand flexed against her hip.
“I have to know,” he murmured.
He slipped his hand from her hip to the small of her back, pulling her against him. Their bodies molded, soft to hard. His thigh slid between hers and desire curled her toes, tightened her nipples into hard, aching points. And still, he didn’t kiss her. Why didn’t he kiss her? Then he did. Finally, he did. He teased her lips with his tongue, and she opened to him, drank in his dark seductive flavor.
She settled her hand against his chest, reveling in the feel of hard muscle and hot male. Good God the man could kiss. His body surrounded her, engulfed her as his mouth continued to seduce. She arched into him, and as his erection pressed against her stomach, she couldn’t hold back a moan.
Sarah Grimm is an award winning author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, two sons and three miniature schnauzers. Between mom's taxi service, parts runs, and answering the phone for the family marine repair business, Sarah can be found curled in her favorite chair, crafting her next novel.
Find Sarah here:
Group Blog: http://www.smutwriterssoapbox.blogspot.com