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Deanna Raybourn | How A Book Gets Titled

February 11, 2010

DEANNA RAYBOURNSILENT IN THE GRAVEOne of the questions I am most often asked by readers is how I come up with titles for my books. The short answer is that I don’t! Sometimes the book seems to title itself. A single phrase, usually a snippet of a quote from a poem or play, will settle down on the title page and I cannot bring myself to think of it as anything else.

My March 2010 release, The Dead Travel Fast, was one such book. I had the idea for the novel some five years ago, and started researching it and compiling notes. It is the story of a Victorian novelist who leaves the security of her Edinburgh home for the grim castles of Transylvania and meets up with an aristocrat who may or may not be a vampire, and as part of my research, I read Dracula. I knew as soon as I came across this passage what the title of my book had to be: As he spoke, he smiled, and the lamplight fell on a hard-looking mouth, with very red lips and sharp-looking teeth, as white as ivory. One of my companions whispered to the other…‘Denn die Todten relten schnell.’ (‘For the dead travel fast.’) Bram Stoker himself borrowed the quote from the German poet Gottfried August Bürger-creator of the Baron Munchausen stories. No doubt Stoker too used it for its shadowy Gothic connotations, reviving interest in this eerie 18th-century murder ballad that was once translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

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