One of the quirkiest things about MEADOWLARK is the title itself. I called it Buckboard Bride originally. One of the first things Swede gives Becky is a buckboard; much like a man buying his bride a car, so she can get around. It was, and still is, one of the most consistent story elements throughout the book. My editor at Harper Collins immediately nixed the title, saying no one would know what a buckboard was. (It’s a small utility vehicle that was very popular in rural America, just in case you are one who has never heard the word before.)
Titles have never been my forte, and I’ll admit, I was stumped. I started throwing words together and making a list. I remember Mountain Mahogany, South Pass Serenade, and none of the rest, as all were sublimely forgettable. Desperate, I enlisted the help of my co-workers at lunch one day to help me brainstorm ideas. One of them suggested Meadowlark which is the state bird of several western states including Wyoming. I added it to the list, though I really had no reason to call it that. Of course, that’s the one the production team chose.
That’s when my editor finally got around to actually reading the book. She called me almost immediately. “I can see where Buckboard Bride came from,” she said, “but I don’t get Meadowlark at all. The title has to make sense.” It’s a good thing it was before video conferencing, because I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes.
At first, I had no idea how to make the title Meadowlark work. Then I remembered a poem about a meadowlark that my brother, who is a notable poet, had written a decade before. He pulled it out and discovered he only had to change the words “tractor’s huff and puff” to “man’s clink and clank” to convert it to 1870.
Then I made up an old wive’s tale: “Look over your shoulder when a meadowlark sings. Long life, love and laughter it brings”. Angel recites it on the way to their wedding-once again saving the day as only Angel could. I added several scenes at pivotal points in the story. In each case one of the main characters hears a meadowlark, which have very distinctive calls by the way, and looks over their shoulder. It wasn’t much, but it was enough, and the book became MEADOWLARK.
I have to admit the title MEADOWLARK has grown on me over the years. I’ve had the chance to change it twice since then, once when it came out as an e-book and more recently when I decided to self-publish. I discovered, though I hate to admit it, Abigail was right. It is a better title than Buckboard Bride.
Ironically, I’ve had a couple of fans tell me they remembered her grandmother using the saying. Thinking maybe it was a distant memory rather than something I made up, I did a Google search before writing this blog and had some surprising results. Though the saying apparently doesn’t exist, the Sioux tribe saw meadowlarks as a symbol of friendship and hearing the song of the meadowlark is good luck. On another site, one dedicated to “Awakening your magick powers,” I discovered that spiritually, the meadowlark symbolizes that in a given situation the worst is over, the time for sorrow is ending, and you will soon be harvesting the fruits of your hard work. To be honest with you, I have no idea where my idea originally came from; it just popped into my head. Sometimes my Muse blows me away.
Angel will be back next week to talk about her story, Silver Springs.