SLEEPING EMBERS OF AN ORDINARY MIND
I’m absolutely thrilled with this title and I’m now excited about the next stage in the publishing process—cover concepts by 47North’s designers.
The publication date will be sometime this year and as soon as it’s firmly decided I’ll announce it here.
It was a tough challenge to find a title because this novel has three intertwining storylines set 600 years apart—in fifteenth century Italy, present-day China and twenty-second century London.
So when, and how, did I arrive at Sleeping Embers Of An Ordinary Mind? And how did I even choose a working title?
I knew I’d be wasting my time searching for a title during the early stages of drafting the novel. In fact, for several months the cover page of my partial manuscript stated: Second Novel by Anne Charnock. I reached a pivotal moment when I felt ready to approach my editor with an outline of the novel plus a few polished chapters. I guessed that Second Novel wouldn’t make a favourable impression, to put it mildly, even as a working title. So I dispatched these chapters with the title, The Academy. In the first chapter, I introduce Toniah, an art historian who works one hundred years from now at The Academy of Restitution. The Academy’s mission is to secure the overdue recognition of women’s achievements in every field of human endeavour.
I didn’t expect this working title to make the final cut and as I progressed with drafting the novel I compiled a list of other possible titles. It grew longer and longer. But I knew I’d discovered the perfect title when, as part of my on-going research, I read a letter by a fifteenth century Italian feminist, Laura Cereta. A leading scholar of her day, she writes a letter of complaint to Bibulus Sempronius:
My ears are wearied by your carping. You brashly and publicly not merely wonder but indeed lament that I am said to possess as fine a mind as nature ever bestowed upon the most learned man. You seem to think that so learned a woman has scarcely before been seen in the world. You are wrong on both counts…I am a school girl, possessed of the sleeping embers of an ordinary mind.
January 13, 1488
A Letter to Bibulus Sempronius: A Defense of the Liberal Instruction of Women
translated by Margaret L. King and Albert Rabil Jr
I loved Cereta’s intimation in her letter that many girls would become scholars if they received the stimulation of a good education.
And so…Sleeping Embers Of An Ordinary Mind became my new working title. I’d written two-thirds of the first draft. And I kept my fingers crossed that 47North’s publishing team would be equally enthusiastic. I wasn’t disappointed! The extract from Laura Cereta’s letter will be printed as an epigraph at the start of my novel.
It seems I’ve now established a pattern for choosing titles. My first novel A Calculated Life takes its title from an early example of dystopian literature—We by the Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin. I came across this sentence:
But a thought swarmed in me; what if he, this yellow-eyed being–in his ridiculous, dirty bundle of trees, in his uncalculated life–is happier than us?
I knew immediately I’d found the title for my novel—A Calculated Life. My main character, bio-engineered Jayna, stood at the opposite end of the spectrum to this ‘yellow-eyed’ savage.
As I turn my thoughts to a third novel I wonder whether I’ll adopt the same strategy for finding a title or if I’ll simply wake up one morning and the title will be blindingly obvious. Wouldn’t that be lovely?