Monday, August 24, 2009

Guest Post by Sandra Dallas, author of Prayers for Sale



I feel very honored today to be able to welcome Sandra Dallas to Jo-Jo Loves to Read!!! Sandra Dallas is an award winning author that is taking the time today to share with us as to how she came up with the title her latest book, Prayers for Sale.

Here is what Sandra has to say:

I was delighted when I came up with the title Prayers for Sale about half-way through the first draft of the book. It struck me as quirky, and I hoped it would intrigue readers. The working title of the book had been The Quilter, which I didn’t like, because although Hennie, my main character, quilts and quilting runs through the book, Prayers for Sale is not about quilting, and I am not a quilt novelist.

The title came from something I read in one of the WPA slave narratives. During the 1930s, the federal government initiated a make-work program for unemployed writers called the Federal Writers Project. Each of the 48 states was to produce a guidebook. Colorado’s, for instance, was filled with history, folklore, promotional material, and driving tours, and was called Colorado: A Guide to the Highest State. In addition, states gathered material for other works—a ghost town book in Colorado, a history of nursing in Kansas, a history of Galena, Illinois (written by Nelson Algren, as I recall.)

In the South, in addition to the state guides, writer-researchers interviewed former slaves, who were then in their 80s and 90s. It was a shame that most of the interviewers were white, the notable exception being Zora Neale Hurston, the most famous black female writer of the first half of the 20th century. That meant that the former slaves sometimes shaded their stories, telling what they thought the white researchers wanted to hear. Nonetheless, the recollections were often brutal, bitter, and filled with stories that bring you to tears.

I have this file that I call “Stuff,” in which I put clippings and ideas and odds and ends that have no other home, and for some reason, while I was writing The Quilter, I went through the file. I came across a story I’d photocopied from one of the slave narratives about an old African-American man who went about with his pockets stuffed with prayers for every occasion. He carried a big sign that read “Prayers for Sale.” I must have been tickled by the story and tucked it into the file.

When I reread the excerpt, I thought that Prayers for Sale would be a great title for a book one day. Then I realized that Prayers for Sale would be a wonderful title for the book I was writing right then.

Titles, of course, can make or break a book. Sometimes they pop into my mind when I start the book. New Mercies, which comes from the Bible, actually came to me before I wrote the novel. The Persian Pickle Club (originally The Interesting Hour Club) occurred to me when I read about a paisley print being called Persian pickle. Several bookstore buyers told me they first stocked that book just because of the title. Tallgrass, which is about a Japanese relocation camp during World War II, was originally A Vine Out of Egypt, another Biblical reference. But so many people told me, “I’ve never been to Egypt,” that I changed it to Tallgrass. Other titles, such as The Diary of Mattie Spenser and Buster Midnight’s CafĂ© were fall-back titles, chosen because I couldn’t come up with anything better.

I have to say that Prayers for Sale is my favorite of all my titles, and it influenced the book, making it more spiritual. That in turn, has prompted questions from readers about my own beliefs, something I’m not altogether comfortable with. You see, I’m a Presbyterian, and we are somewhat reticent to talk about religion. In fact, there is an old joke: What do Presbyterians bring to the evangelical movement. The answer: Restraint.

Of course, titles can be misleading. When I told my daughter Dana that I was writing a book called Prayers for Sale, she quipped, “What’s it about—selling indulgences?”


I truly appreciate you sharing your insight about how you think of titles for your books Sandra. Thanks so much for stopping by today! I just read a review last week of your book titled The Chili Queen over at Joyfully Retired. After reading the review, the title really made me laugh! But I do hope that everyone who reads Prayers for Sale finds Hennie to be just as special of a friend as I did.

I also want to give a special Thank You to Wiley from @uthors on the Web again for inviting me to participate in this tour. I encourage you to follow the remainder of this tour by checking out these other blogs:
August 24: http://www.fiveminutesforbooks.com
August 25: http://www.abookbloggersdiary.blogspot.com/
August 25: http://www.lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com
August 25: http://smallworldreads.blogspot.com/
August 26: http://www.lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com
August 27: http://www.rebelhousewife.com/
August 28: http://www.stephaniesbooks.blogspot.com/
September 9: http://blog.mawbooks.com/

306 comments:

1 – 200 of 306   Newer›   Newest»
Veens said...

The title intrigues me too! Love the sound of it. I laughed at what the author's daughter had to say about the title and the book :D

Margot at Joyfully Retired said...

Very interesting post. I've often wondered how authors come up with their book titles. As I said earlier, after Chili Queen I am a Sandra Dallas fan. I have to read all of them now. I have my own personal challenge.

Lesa said...

Prayers for Sale, and all of Sandra Dallas' books are wonderful. I really enjoyed this post to find out how one of my favorite authors picked her titles.

Lesa - www.lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com

Kyra said...

Looking forward to reading more about prayers for sale - especially given the quilting angle!

Best, Kyra
www.BlackThreads.blogspot.com
a quilting blog

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