How do you name ten books in a series?
When I started writing the Wynter Wild books, a stream-of-consciousness half-million words covering several years of her life and written out of order, I knew early on that it would be a long series. So the necessity of naming the books in some sort of coherent manner was an issue I dealt with early on.
I wanted titles that played on a single theme, but I hadn’t decided what that theme would be. I jotted down endless ideas using themes from the story – not only music, but also “threads” (a recurring theme relating to broken or frayed threads, and of course braiding of hair and bracelets), lines from classic folk songs, matching words relating to family, and others.
Having decided on music, I brainstormed phrases and then matched them up with the relevant books. The later titles weren’t finalized until the earlier ones were already published, since those plots weren’t fully developed yet, but I had a list to select from.
Here’s my reasoning for each title – and a trip down memory lane for those readers who have stuck with the series until book 10. Book title links take you to pages on the Wynter Wild Wiki, which includes spoilers.
Not strictly a generic musical title – it just came to me at some point, and I made it even more relevant by having Wynter choose “littlesistersong” as her online ID. The title conveys music, and more importantly family, and reflects the idea of Wynter telling her story, or singing her song.
2. Out of Tune
The book starts six weeks after Wynter escapes the ashram, when she’s settling in to life outside. But nothing is easy, and she feels out of phase with reality much of the time, unable to connect with school friends or her foster mother, and unable to live with her family where she yearns to be.
Wynter is in a more suitable foster home and seeing more of her family, so she’s feeling pretty positive – hitting her stride, finding her rhythm. She makes some proactive decisions in this book as she looks forward to living with Caleb – including the steps she takes to make the purchase of their new home possible.
The title refers to the disappearance of two people who are or were important in Wynter’s life – Indio goes to London, and she learns about another disappearance in her past. The habit she picks up, a reflection of her mental health, is her attempt to retrieve those lost moments.
Distorted family relationships are a key theme in this book. Miriam reappears, bringing into focus the damage she did to her children, including her indirect responsibility for Indio’s messed-up feelings. Things from Wynter’s past emerge (such as her damaged voice) to show how her early experiences distorted her life.
On the surface things are going well for the family as their band’s career takes off and their gigs are a success thanks to the natural chemistry between them as musicians. Meanwhile, what Wynter perceives as a natural connection to Indio is interpreted very differently by his girlfriend.
This title refers of course to the alternating viewpoints between the family in Washington, and Xay in California – as well as the “duet” of the childhood friends, Xay and Wynter, on their path toward reconnecting.
8. Minor Key
Events that should be exciting and joyful, such as Xay meeting his family and the band going on their first tour, are marred by tragedy and other circumstances, throwing a bittersweet cast over everything.
This refers to Wynter’s surgery, which results in “broken” vocal cords – an emotional reaction to the drama around her. Family strings, or connections, both at home (with Caleb’s drinking) and in other branches of the family, are tested or broken.
10. The Beat Goes On
I chose this rather generic title as a way to round things off, to give the impression of their story continuing beyond what happens in the series. While I do tie up some loose ends, I also leave many storylines open to possibilities so readers can imagine futures for the characters after the last page. The series only covers three years, and Wynter is only 18 – she has her whole life ahead of her!
Finally, a quick word about the series title. Before I had any book titles, I knew I’d name the series after the main character because regardless of all the sub-plots, it’s her story. So I figured I should give her a simple but memorable name.
Her name was originally a common “hippie” name, Summer, but that seemed too on-the-nose since she grew up in the “perpetual summer” of a desert. So I rather arbitrarily switched to Wynter (and gave Joy a valid reason for naming her that – she missed the winters of her early childhood).
I searched for an alliterative second name, and “Wild” sounded good to my ear. Her upbringing was rather wild, in a sense, and once we learn about her mother’s past, it makes sense why Miriam was attracted to the name.
(Word cloud from Word Art.)