How I Came Up With The Title for “Optimists Die First” by Susin Nielsen
Some of my titles have come effortlessly for me, like Word Nerd and Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom. Others, like We Are All Made of Molecules, came to me mid-way through writing the novel, like an epiphany, like I was writing towards it but just didn’t know it yet.
Optimists Die First was another ball of wax entirely. My first draft of the manuscript was very different from the end product, and the original title was about as good as that first draft was – meaning, not good at all. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you, but here goes. It was called This is the Soundtrack of My Life. At that point it was a schmaltzier book, and oddly, in spite of four books under my belt, it was as if I hadn’t yet Susin-ized it.
Thankfully I have amazing editors and they slowly helped guide me toward the story I had within me. The manuscript got better, but I still didn’t have a title. Then, in spring of 2015, I was on a book tour with my friend, the fantastic YA novelist Susan Juby. We got to talking about Goodreads one day; about how it’s such a dangerous site to visit as an author. If you read ten reviews of your book and nine are great and one is crap, it’s the crap one you remember. And Susan said it was because we’re programmed that way, from an evolutionary point of view; to be on the alert for the out of the ordinary, the warning signs, because it might save your life (an example: You’re at the beach one day, and the water dramatically recedes, the birds stop singing, the beach is calm and beautiful – an optimist would think “how lovely.” A pessimist would think: tsunami). This stuck with me, and I did some online research when I got home and discovered studies have been done that show that pessimists tend to live longer than optimists, because they don’t take as many risks. That’s when the new title popped into my head, and I knew it was “the one.”
About the Book: