What's in a name?

When we were searching for titles for my debut novel, Tell Me a Secret (HarperTeen 2010), we probably went through a hundred—no, wait, at least two hundred—titles before we hit on the right one.

It was the eleventh hour: Saturday night at two a.m., and the final title had to go into the catalog on Monday. The best we'd come up with was The Darkest Light, and the design team had no idea what to do with it. They didn't like What Would Xanda Do (would teens know what that meant?). We'd already nixed the working title (Brimstone Soup...too paranomal) and the title it sold under (A Light That Never Goes Out...fantastic Smiths song, but...uh, what?).

I was just falling asleep when I remembered a conversation Miranda and her sister Xanda were having in the first chapter:

"Do you want to know a secret?" I whispered to the sister in the mirror.
"Tell me," she whispered back. "Tell me and I'll tell you one."

I sat up in bed. I gripped my sleeping husband and shook him. "Tell me a secret!" I hissed. "Tell Me a Secret!"

I don't know why I thought it would be easier the second time around. My working title, Street Creed, was great...right? Never mind that it was a little bit difficult to say, and people sometimes thought it was a typo for Street Cred...

Ok, maybe not so much.

I was lamenting (read: whining hopelessly) to many of my writing friends. [Note to friends...thanks, I love you!]

Stephanie Kuehnert and I were having a writing heart-to-heart, and she kindly commiserated by telling me about an early title of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone...involving Sid Vicious.

"But wait," she'd protested. "This is about American punk, not British." They eventually hit on the title, a song by Sleater Kinney. Yes. Exactly.

When I finally thought of the title for novel #2, I almost missed it. Too close to Tell Me a Secret, I thought dismally. People will think I just spent two years writing the same book. Then a wise friend pointed out writers like Ellen Hopkins, Courtney Summers. Their titles go together. Kinda like mine. Even crazier, the working title of the novel I just started will fit right in.

So what is it? First, I'll give you a teaser for the book:

Joy Delamere is suffocating.

From asthma, which has nearly claimed her life. From her parents, who will do anything to keep that from happening. From delectably dangerous Asher, who is smothering her from the inside out.

Joy can take his words—tender words, cruel words—until the night they go too far.

Now, Joy will leave everything behind to find the one who has offered his help, a homeless boy called Creed. She will become someone else. She will learn to survive. She will breathe…if only she can get to Creed before it’s too late.

Set against the gritty backdrop of Seattle’s streets and a cast of characters with secrets of their own, Holly Cupala’s powerful new novel explores the subtleties of abuse, the meaning of love, and how far a girl will go to discover her own strength.

The title?


I'm not really sure who thought of the title of this motley group of YA authors writing Outside the Lines, but I think it suits us perfectly. We are "pushing the boundaries and writing from the heart." We write about passion and heartbreak, every one having a unique voice. Who knows what we might do together? I'm thankful for all of you who have decided to find out, and I'm grateful to be a part of it.

Speaking of Stephanie, she's featured in this video I made of author friends telling secrets (you won't believe her secret, people). Enjoy!


  1. Hi Holly :)
    The titles are perfect, and it was fun to learn the story behind them.
    Thank you VERY much for the AWESOME video.
    Love & Best Wishes to you & yours,

  2. Oh, sweetie... any time you want to commiserate about titles, I'm right here. I mean, did I ever tell you that ADIÓS TO MY OLD LIFE actually went into the catalog as "Light My Fuego?"


    Luckily, I fought that one tooth and nail and wound up winning. Which was a good thing.

    And STARS went through about eleventy bajillion title ideas. We just couldn't seem to find the right one. Oddly, that is a song title that worked.

  3. Thanks for spilling your secrets, Holly! Great post.

  4. Terrific post, Holly! Good to know know you agonize over titles as much as I do. Yours are excellent!

  5. Thanks for the commiseration, writing buds! I think I'm known for complaining more about the title search process than actually writing (or, God help me, revising) the book...ok, maybe not.

    Barb, I LOVE Light My Fuego. It's awesome. Why ever did you can that one? It had me singing The Doors all weekend! :D

    I'm glad you enjoyed the video - isn't Stephanie's secret fantastic?

  6. I was talking to an agent mate one day on facebook and he said something to me that included the words "the new normal" (I wish I would have saved that conversation!). It smacked me in the face with its rightness.

  7. Thanks for the shout out, Holly, and I am so glad that you guys came up with the perfect title. Can I just brag to everyone that I already got to read Don't Breathe A Word and it is utterly amazing. I loved Holly's first book, but this one just hit me hard and no pun intended, left me breathless. Start counting down the days people!

  8. I love reading how titles get picked for books. And the secret revealing video was great!

  9. The New Normal...oooh.

    Stephanie, you're welcome - and thanks back!

    amber d, thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed. That was a lot of fun to put together.


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