I’ve always loved naming things. Children, houses, cars, even special days. So naming a book was a special treat.
I started with a working title, but when I discovered it was the name of John Adam’s (the president J.A.) home place, I had to find something else. My next choice stood for a long time, but had a “seasonal” connotation that I thought failed to represent the entire story well.
Then there were multiple short-lived titles that came and went as I wandered through the lost land of trying to please an agent and a disinterested (except in her fee) editor.
I finally decided that I needed a title—an invented word—that would be mine and mine alone. I tried on name after name as eagerly as Imelda Marcos tried on shoes.
None fit quite right, until I happened upon two words that I could combine to form another word.
Cairn and aerie.
It felt just right. “Cairn” was something left as a memorial and “aerie” was something up high. And they worked together.
My next step was to research the name. I found only one teeny reference in a very obscure book. So I picked it.
And then to my utter delight I discovered that the first watch maker in the United States was a man named John Cairns, and the years of his life would have coincided with Bertram Snow’s father’s life. I was absolutely sure I had finally found exactly the right title.
What I didn’t realize is how many people would ask me how to pronounce it! To my surprise (and honest dismay), it didn’t roll of reader’s tongue as it had mine. I had created a title hard to pronounce.
I can only hope that it is memorable because it’s too late to change it. And I’m not sure I would if I could.
I still like it, and it still feels right.
Maybe my title (like any psychologist will tell you about a boy given an unusual name) will succeed despite the obstacles of its birthright.