I don’t usually have a title when I write a book. They tend to come late, if at all. Occasionally a line will strike me as the perfect title but more often I’ll be sat there scrabbling around for anything that has the remotest connection to the book and sounds even vaguely appropriate. My Word files are called things like ‘Magpie 3’, ‘Current Project, ‘New Simon Feximal’ and ‘Book’.
Think of England was different.
You probably know the phrase. It means to grit your teeth and do something you don’t much want to, often sexually. ‘Unenthusiastic consent’ might sum it up. I know men who’ve been told to ‘close your eyes and think of England’ before a prostate exam, and it is supposedly advice given to young women getting married on how to endure the indignities of the honeymoon. There’s an unsourced reference floating round the internet attributing it to one Lady Alice Hillingdon, supposedly writing in her journal in 1912: ‘I am happy now that George calls on my bedchamber less frequently than of old. As it is, I now endure but two calls a week, and when I hear his steps outside my door I lie down on my bed, close my eyes, open my legs and think of England.’
Anyway, this phrase came up at work. No, that’s not my job. But I have an uncompromising boss who, hearing me whinge about not wanting to spend all afternoon updating titles on the database, told me to suck it up and think of England.
And the words snagged. I was in an Edwardian pulp sort of mood, and wondering about my next story, and I started thinking…under what circumstances might a hero (let’s have a man in this position) find himself in the position of having to lie back and think of England? How might that come about, and with whom, and what would happen next? And (because I don’t write dubcon) what precisely is going on to make this necessary?
At which point the entire story arrived in my head, special delivery. I’m not kidding. It went from ‘think of England’ to ‘ah, because …’ to a fully formed pair of heroes, a plot set-up, a location and a narrative arc – all in the course of the least professionally productive half hour ever spent at work. I updated about three titles that afternoon, but I had my next book.
I will only add that when the book was accepted by Samhain, the period of waiting to find out whether Marketing would approve the title was physically painful. I don’t think I could have changed it. I doubt it could have been called anything else, ever.
Well, possibly Stiff Upper Lip. But I might save that for later.
Blurb: Lie back and think of England…
England, 1904. Two years ago, Captain Archie Curtis lost his friends, fingers, and future to a terrible military accident. Alone, purposeless and angry, Curtis is determined to discover if he and his comrades were the victims of fate, or of sabotage.
Curtis’s search takes him to an isolated, ultra-modern country house, where he meets and instantly clashes with fellow guest Daniel da Silva. Effete, decadent, foreign, and all-too-obviously queer, the sophisticated poet is everything the straightforward British officer fears and distrusts.
As events unfold, Curtis realizes that Daniel has his own secret intentions. And there’s something else they share—a mounting sexual tension that leaves Curtis reeling.
As the house party’s elegant facade cracks to reveal treachery, blackmail and murder, Curtis finds himself needing clever, dark-eyed Daniel as he has never needed a man before…
I’m a commissioning editor in my daily life and I blog about writing and editing at kjcharleswriter.wordpress.com.
I live in London, UK, with two kids, a tolerant husband and an even more tolerant cat.