However Long the Day by Justin Reed Genre: Historical Fiction
However Long the Day is the tale of two strangers—Niall Donovan, a poor immigrant from Ireland, and Frederick Philips, a rich ne'er-do-well from New York's Upper East Side—who discover they look so similar they could be twins. Frederick, desperate to avoid a lecture from his father, bribes Niall to switch places for the evening. Niall finds there's more to the story than Frederick let on, and is dragged through the turbulence created by World War I, the Spanish Flu, and social upheaval, and into the corrupt belly of Manhattan on the cusp of Prohibition.
As Niall and Frederick hurtle through the next twenty-four hours, will either get what they bargained for?
Niall met Frederick’s eyes in the mirror and froze. They had the same brown hair, the same prominent jawline, and the same flushed cheeks. Niall’s eyebrow deflated, and, with a gasp, the cloud burst.
“Fetch! You’re me fetch, me own ghost!” Niall said. “Judas, I hope the old stories aren’t true, or I’m gonna die, here in this bleedin’ mansion—”
“Sshh! My parents will hear,” Frederick hissed, and he pushed Niall back into the kitchen. “Stop being so dramatic! You’re not going to die, at least not here. Believe me now?”
“I gotta be headin’ on,” Niall blurted. He snatched the tongs from the floor and hurried to the back door.
“Wait!” Frederick called as Niall stepped through the doorway. Niall didn’t wait. Frederick hopped over the puddle and ran into the alley. Niall bounded into the wagon seat. “Wait a minute. I’m not a ghost, or a fitch, or whatever you called me. My name’s Frederick Philips, and I live here. Ask anyone on this block if it’s true, and they’ll tell you. Some of them might curse when you mention me, but they’ll tell you I live here.”
Niall snapped the reins. The wagon jolted forward.
Frederick leaped in front of the horse and held up his hands.
“Whoa!” Niall yelled. The wagon lurched to a stop. “You’re really actin’ the fool, Freddy Boy! Now get outta the lane or I’ll be spittin’ yer name with all yer neighbors!”
“I need your help, Niall,” Frederick said, and he looked at the back door.
“Giddap!” Niall said, and moved to flick the reins again.
“Stop!” Frederick yelled, and held his hands up like willpower alone would immobilize the horse.
“How would you like to earn some money?”
“Have a job, as you can see,” Niall said, and again lifted the reins.
“You said it’s temporary,” Frederick said. He looked at the back door again. “I’ll pay you fifty dollars. That’s twice what you make in a week, and I only need you for the next day.”
Niall’s hands stopped, his mouth opened, but, after a moment, he shook his head.
“Outta the way, Freddy,” Niall said.
“Wait! Just wait!” Frederick said. Frederick’s eyes flicked to the windows on the second and third floors. “Fine, three hundred. I’ll give you three hundred dollars, but you have to get out of that cart right now.”
Niall blinked several times. His lips parted and his jaw sagged. His expression—one of disbelief and disgust—warred with his body, which seemed to have its own opinion. He set the reins aside and stepped down from the wagon.
“What do ya need from me, that you’ll pay so much?” Niall asked, standing next to the horse.
“I need you to take my place for a bit,” Frederick said.
“Are ya coddin’ me?” Niall asked. He looked Frederick over like he had before.
“Don’t know what that means,” Frederick said, “but I’ll pay you three hundred dollars to switch clothes with me, sit at that table in there until my parents come down, and listen to my father’s lecture. They’ll send you to my room, which is at the very top of the stairs on the fifth floor at the back of the house—”
Frederick pointed at the uppermost window, which had a small balcony, then started unbuttoning his shirt and walked inside.
“--Father will say you can’t have dinner. Mother will feel bad and leave some outside the bedroom door before they go to their party. My older sister moved out a month ago, so you’ll have the place to yourself. You sleep in my bed and stay in my room until tomorrow morning. I’ll climb the drainpipe before sunrise and we swap back. I’m the prince, you’re the pauper, see? It’ll be duck soup.”
Justin Reed lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and four children. He was a software engineer and executive for fifteen years before he began his writing career. When not working, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, volunteering at his church, fly fishing, and agreeing to his wife’s requests to take selfies in front of libraries.
Shakespeare posed this question in Romeo and Juliet, and provided a response: “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
What a lie.
Not even Juliet believed this preposterous assertion. In fact, she spent the lines just before and after this famous inquiry bemoaning that, in fact, there’s quite a bit in a name. If only Romeo wasn’t a Montague then the lovers’ troubles would be over. But in fact he was a Montegue, and she a Capulet, and neither could cast off their names lightly.
And, while we’re at it, a rose by any other name would not smell as sweet. I acknowledge to Juliet that a person wholly unacquainted with roses might find their scent pleasing (it’s easy to be magnanimous to a fictional character, and an author who’s been dead for hundreds of years), but only if the flower remained unnamed to them beforehand.
Again, a rose by any other name would not smell as sweet. To bolster my point, let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s pretend I’m a botanist who cultivated several new varieties of roses. These cultivars smell better and last longer than other roses, but, being the zany botanist I am, I’ve allowed my two sons, 12 and 13 years old respectively, to oversee their branding. Which of these appeals to you most? Show your wife you care by sending her a gorgeous bouquet of Fart Flowers! Nothing says I Love You like the scent of a warm summer wind breaking over the garden into your home. Available at the finest florists. Spruce up your yard with Puke Perennials! These two-season shrubs bring excitement and drama to your garden in heaves of yellow and green. Available at your local home center.
So, names matter. Especially if you want to tempt someone to smell the flowers.
Hence my anxiety about selecting titles for my novels.
I’ve had a few people ask if titling a book is like naming a child. In some ways it is, but in other ways it’s much worse. A child can grow past their unfortunate name and make it their own, whereas a book has no means of overcoming an author’s mistakes.
The first title of However Long the Day was Working Title. An acquaintance saw the cover page of the manuscript and commented how interesting the title was (their expression led me to believe that by interesting they meant completely stupid) and wondered aloud whether it was too literary. I assured this person it was literal, not literary, and represented a placeholder. I then walked into the other room and crossed that person’s name off my beta reader list.
I held onto Working Title for as long as I could, mainly because I wanted to avoid the mental torture of selecting something better and the attendant risk of settling on something far worse. Eventually, though, people outside my own home needed to read the novel, and a placeholder was insufficient.
Over the course of a half a day at the office, I jotted down eighteen options, mulled them over, and without asking for any other input, slapped Crosswise in Carnegie Hill on my cover page and sent it to the printers. I should have known, after I got home and told my daughter the news, that it wouldn’t last. She gave me the same look my acquaintance had.
It didn’t take long for the shine to wear off on Crosswise in Carnegie Hill. It sounded like an article in Highlights, the magazine your kids read while they’re waiting in the dentist office. But I stuck with it through the beta reading process, and well into the second draft phase. I again waited until the very last moment.
Luckily, I decided to employ a more scientific approach during the second attempt to name the story.
I began by listing major categories that could influence the title of the book: Theme, Plot/Setting, and Character. I came up with lists of words in each of these categories, and for each of those words dug up at least five synonyms.
I then played mix-n-match with all of these words like a kid building something with Legos. To my original list of eighteen I added another one hundred fifteen alternatives, each crying out they could be a contender. I didn’t include obviously bad combinations, but neither was I too fussy about removing all the garbage (there were plenty that were the book marketing equivalent of Fart Flowers).
I reviewed this list with my focus groups (wife and kids), and they gave their opinions on everything. Some of the options were crossed out multiple times, they were so bad. Some of the candidates were really cool, but wrong for the book. In the end, the process yielded a list of ten finalists I could stew on.
My next job was to determine if these ten finalists were taken, meaning another book, movie, and/or other media already existed with that title or something similar. What followed was a wacky and surprising journey through Amazon and other booklisting services. I should have known that any title that included the word night would likely be taken by a romance and/or erotica author or seven.
At the end of this process of verifying and investigating, I was left with an even smaller list: zero.
That’s right, I was left with zero usable titles.
All was not lost. My favorite of the ten finalists, However Long the Night, was derived from an Irish maxim that I had twisted to match the setting of the book. The original saying is However long the day, the evening will come. Most of the book takes place at night, so I changed the candidate to However Long the Night. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), that title was used by a book published five years ago. Incidentally, However Long the Night comes from a similar adage, only of African origin.
In the end, I untwisted the saying, and happily chose However Long the Day.
I’m pleased to have found something at all. The first novel I wrote, which I set aside to write However Long the Day, suffered a worse fate. I sent it to some beta readers with a mediocre title, and the smell of it added nothing to their reading experience.
I hope, for my sake, to someday have the experience other authors report, of having a title presented to them from On High, or knowing the title before the first word is written. Until then, I’ll fret over finding titles that entice potential readers to stop and smell the roses.
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