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Swoon Author Lillie Vale: A Title Change From the Heart

You know the phrase “it takes a village”? Well, like child-rearing, this oldie but goodie holds true for books, too. SO MANY people have a hand in transforming your manuscript into a published book, inside and out, from your editor to the sales mavens to the graphic gurus, to Jean Feiwel herself!

And, because my book is part of the Swoon Reads community, you as the readers are also part of my village. Swoon is fantastic about getting reader input for a lot of decisions, so you guys have more influence than you know!

So, right from The Call, I knew that there was a possibility that the title would be changed. I wasn’t super attached to Bitter Brews, so I was happy to brainstorm lots of other options for them to choose from, but there was one thing that was important to me—having a title that worked on a lot of levels. Something that had literal and figurative meanings. Something readers could screech “TITLE REFERENCE!!!” about if they found something in the book that harkened back to the title.

The original title, Bitter Brews, fit the story well. There’s a line in the first draft where Levi calls another girl his cup of tea, to which Babe replies “Then how come all I’ve seen you drink is coffee?” Badum tsss. Babe 1.0 was also very, very different from Revision Babe. She held some bitterness toward her friends and her mother. Also, alliteration!!! And “brews” was a reference to her working at (and eventually owning) a coffee shop.

TL;DR: There was a story behind the original title. I wanted the new title to also have a story just as meaningful.

But I forgot a pretty crucial caveat that comes with being a published author. Your story isn’t just YOUR story anymore. It belongs to everyone who has read it, who has been moved by it, who has loved it.

And going back to my “it takes a village” analogy, to come up with my book’s new title, it literally did need a village—the Swoon team!

Swoon’s very own Emily S. was the one to come up with the title for my book, and with Jean’s go-ahead, the story was renamed...

Small Town Hearts

When it comes to being part of a village—or in this case, a Swoon Squad!—there’s also something magical in seeing how someone else views your book. And the way Emily views it is pretty gosh darn amazing:

“I knew we were going to be looking at new titles for Bitter Brews, so I tried to come up with a few suggestions to bring to the meeting ahead of time. I knew Oar's Rest was the kind of small, sleepy beach town that I've always fantasized about settling down in. Daydreaming about biking into town to a cozy coffee shop by the ocean just makes my soul happy. Maybe that's because I'm a small-town girl myself, and as much as I love living in New York City, there's definitely something comforting about a special, quiet place that most people have never heard of. While thinking of the setting and the characters (and wishing I was on a beach somewhere admiring a lighthouse), the phrase 'small town heart' just sort of popped into my head. I've definitely got a small town heart, and I think Babe and Levi do too.”

After reading this, there was no doubt in my mind that my village saw Small Town Hearts with the same lens that I did, that we shared the same vision, and that together we were going to help this baby grow up and go out into the world the very best it could be. The way Emily describes feeling is the way I want every reader who reads this book to feel.

Everyone needs a village, and in this story, my main characters definitely find theirs <33. Babe and Levi definitely have small-town hearts, and coming from a small town myself, so do I! And when you read Small Town Hearts, I hope it will evoke one in you, too.

Come back tomorrow for cover voting!

Author spotlight

Lillie Vale

Lillie Vale, upon discovering she could not be one of Santa’s elves or attend Hogwarts, decided to become a writer …

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