My Father Was an Alien

It might sound like an offering from one of the more lowbrow newspapers on the planet. Or it might bring to mind movies like Men In Black where ordinary peoples’ bodies are taken over by aliens from other planets in distant galaxies.

In actual fact, My Father Was an Alien is the original working title for Sliding on the Snow Stone (That Right Publishing 2011), my debut historical memoir chronicling my father’s life and his journey through the Holodomor (1932-33), Soviet terrors, and the Nazi brutality of World War 2. The reason I chose that title is because he was admitted to Britain as a refugee under the Aliens Act, and has a registration booklet from that time. So, in the parlance of the day, he was actually regarded as an alien. It goes to show how the meaning of words can change or become distorted over time.

My original intention was to write the story as a historical biography, but following extensive research, I decided to write it in my father’s voice as a historical memoir, endeavouring to capture the full extent of the heartache and drama he endured.

And, just lately, I’ve been wondering whether other famous novels may have had different working titles to those they ended up with.

1984 was originally titled The Last Man in Europe. And Dracula was given the working title of The Dead Un-dead, which sounds more like a movie spoof starring Leslie Nielsen.

Gulliver’ s Travels was originally tagged with the catchy Travels into Several Remote Nations of the Word, in Four Parts.

So, when a writer decides that he’s found the perfect title for his book, he might be as well to look closer again.

31 thoughts on “My Father Was an Alien

  1. A very amusing and interesting post, Andy. So many writers have had second thoughts about their titles. In each case including your own the second thoughts were a definite improvement. My own book Belfast Girls was first called Dangerous Games. I’m glad I changed it!

  2. These examples show how important a title can be; while ‘My Father was an Alien’ fits the story, ‘Sliding on the Snow Stone’ adds an intrigue and arouses the reader’s interest. The original title of Gulliver’s Travels sounds more like a National Geographic feature.

    1. Haha. I think song lyrics are a perfect example of how the creative writing process is so fluid. I recently found out that Paul McCartney came up with the idea for ‘Yesterday’ in a dream, and his original working lyrics were ‘Scrambled eggs, ooh baby, you got great legs,’ Or something like that anyway.

      1. Wouldn’t mind his money. To go with the scrambled egg dreams . . . I’m not that keen on scrambled eggs as it happens – there’s a revelation for ya!!

  3. The only title I wrestled with was, ‘Lallapaloosa’ which I couldn’t really change. Sometimes changing the title of a book can bring the same luck to it as changing the name of a ship.

  4. nice little post andy. titles certainly don’t certainly come by easily. even when you come with a fairly good one, you’d be like, where’d i come up with that other one as it didn’t even corrolate. still even the one you do settle on sometimes can still be upgraded.

  5. Actually, The Division of the Damned was going to be called SS Division Vampyr, until a mate of mine found a rather shoddy paperback about vampires in the Wehrmacht called Operation Vampyr😦
    At first I was gutted, but after reading said tome, and smiling smugly to myself at how laughable it was, I relaxed and looked for another title🙂
    All’s well that ends well, eh?

    1. Aye. It’s a fluid process, and funny in a way because holding on to an original title seems precious at the time, but as the work progresses and develops it outgrows the original and another is required.

    1. The cover for my latest book has just arrived…I’m so glad I changed the title from the original working title.

      1. I’v just started a blog on wordpress, Andy. I’ll add to it tomorrow. I would send you my yet as unseen new cover fresh from my designer.

      2. Sounds good. I’m hoping to get your Desert Island Books feature done later tonight – they’ve drifted a little. But, I might email you to see whether you’d like to add/change anything.

      3. with drawers full of false attempts, it won’t surprise yo that the flowing explanation by a posh US agent tickled me: “Working titles are called tat because they never work.” Ouch! Happy writing!

      1. I’ve been chatting to a very funny lady and hilarious author, Susanne O’Leary. One of her books ‘Fresh Powder’ is a send up of Courcheval residents and visitors.

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