Good God Bird's Flight to a New Name!


Goodgodbird_publicationAs I discussed in a previous post, "What's In a Name?", the title of my forthcoming novel has been something of a mystery for the last few months. Originally titled Good God Bird, my editor and I both felt that a new title was needed to properly and perfectly capture the tone and message of the story.  

For weeks I scanned over page after page of the novel, searching for ideas. I went from biblically inspired titles to ones taken from poems and song lyrics. None of them quite fit like one of my earliest ideas, taken from a chapter title in the novel: The Place Where Things Come Back.

For a while, it seemed this would be the one. I said it over and over again in my head and aloud—trying to get used to a title that would follow me for years to come. I wanted to love it; for it to roll off the tongue with the same pride that Good God Bird had done. I’ll be honest, even after a few weeks, I was still struggling to not use the original name. Then, my editor suggested we drop the first two words of the title. And, though it seems so simple, that was it.  

Where Things Come Back is the official title of my debut novel and I couldn’t be happier about it. I thought about writing a long, drawn-out explanation on how the title fits the story so well, but I instead I’ll let the work speak for itself instead.

I’m happy to say that you can now pre-order Where Things Come Back, which hits bookshelves on May 3, 2011, on and other websites. Below is the editorial description of the novel:

Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . .

In the summer before Cullen's junior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots the ivory-billed woodpecker--a species thought to be extinct since the 1940s--in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone's eating "Lazarus burgers." But as absurd as the town's carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.

While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face to face in a surprising and harrowing climax.

Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It's about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances.

So that's my experience with changing titles. Have any of you gone through this as well? How do you come up with the titles for your writing? I'm all ears!


Corey Whaley hails from Shreveport, LA, where he teaches eighth grade English. He signed with Ken Wright, a literary agent at Writers House, last fall using WEbook's AgentInbox query service. His debut novel was purchased by Simon & Schuster early in 2010. Read more about Corey's amazing story.

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  1. I've got to admit, I liked the way Good God Bird sounded, I guess I'll have to read the story to further understand the new title (not that I understood the previous one anyways...just sounded damn good). In any event, congratulations, the editorial review is intriguing and I will certainly be reading the book as soon as it's available. Cheers.

  2. I have to say that Good God Bird jumped out at me as fresh, unique and inspired. I hope you won't regret the change. The title 'Where Things Come Back' smacks of other titles done before such as Stephen King's 'Sometimes They Come Back.' And 'Where the Wild Things Are,' reminds me of your title as well. I'm not trying to be negative, just have to say that Good God Bird jumped out at me.

  3. The story sounds great, Corey. Good luck with it. You are where so many aspiring authors want to be someday. Enjoy it.

  4. Congrats Corey, that sounds like a good story, best of luck with it :)

  5. Thanks everyone.
    It has taken some time to get used to the idea of a new title, as I've previously discussed. It was GOOD GOD BIRD in my head for so many years. I will say, however, that since revisions and since I got the opportunity to go back in, with my editor's help, and add to the story in a way that makes it more emotional and identifiable, WHERE THINGS COME BACK jumps out, to me, as the perfect fit. I hope you all will agree when you get a chance to read it.
    Thanks for the feedback!

  6. It will always be Good God Bird to me, you know! I can't wait for it to hit the shelves. I know it's going to do great!

  7. Thank you Erica! You're too kind. I hope you're right. Now that vacation is over, I need to get back to work on novel #2!

  8. Dear Mr John Whaley,
    I really found the old title more interesting than the one currently proposed. The first title gave the passerby an image to relate to, a bird, which would have been a decent icon for the book cover. 
    The current title sounds safe and vague, but also interesting in an artsy way. 
    Good God Bird, Go with your gut and stick with the initial title. You want your book to fly off the shelves, right?
    Good luck
    P.S. My kindle is waiting...

  9. While I appreciate your opinion, I felt it was necessary to change the title to suit the final work. I am quite happy with and confident about my title and, having learned quite a bit about the book business over the past few months, feel that I have "gone with my gut".


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