Lune Diary: What’s in a name?

by M.J. Hearle

The title ‘Lune’ first occurred to me somewhere between Fethiye and Efes in Turkey. I was on a pre-wedding honeymoon with my soon-to-be wife and the weather was apocalyptically hot. With skin paler than milk, it’s hard enough for me to endure the Australian summer let alone endure the middle east’s seasonal heat, so I was spending a lot of time indoors. While my wife was off exploring, unbothered by the malignant orb in the sky, I took to writing.

I’d been toying with the outline for a children’s fantasy story – a story I had initially called Sebastian Wolf and The Clockwork King until I discovered there were a million books with ‘clockwork’ in the title (not the least Cassandra Clare’s bestselling series) – and needed a title. Some writers can work without titles. I can’t. Even if it’s going to change, I need a title to hang the story on. And there ‘Lune’ was. A title that suggested the mystery and magic I hoped my story would possess.

Would ‘Lune’ have occurred to me in Australia? Perhaps, but I doubt it. Travelling has a stimulative effect on my imagination. It has something to do with being outside my comfort zone and breaking up the usual routines. Nevertheless, I don’t think the word was directly inspired by my travels. No, if I think deeply about ‘Lune’ I can identify a couple of clear antecedents. 

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The first one is Frank Herbert’s, Dune. I’ve always found this an enormously evocative title. ‘Dune’ spoke to me of otherworldly vistas and adventure. Phonetically, I like the way ‘Dune’ sounds. There’s no real explanation for this. I simply dig that particular combination of vowels and consonants. Swapping the ‘D’ and ‘L’ doesn’t change that. If anything, ‘Lune’ sounds even more melodious in my head. 

Going back further, I think I can spot another signpost on the neural pathway leading to ‘Lune’. When I was a kid, I was mad about video games. I didn’t actually have a computer until I was eleven or twelve but I was well into video games before then. I used to pour over video game magazines in the newsagency and visit video game stores where I would spend hours staring at the box art, imagining the most stunningly crafted games inside. Games that were far beyond the processing power of nineteen-eighties computers. One of the games I never played, but whose box art has lingered with me over the decades, is Loom

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It’s so strange. Who is that figure in the hood? What power does he possess? Who are those odd looking characters suspended in space? I could probably find the answers to those questions somewhere online but I’d rather not. I want the game to remain in my imagination. Unchanged. Perfect. Magical.

Dune. Loom. Lune. Seems like a pretty obvious progression. Or maybe I’m just imposing logic on something that is defiantly illogical.  

Whatever the case, ‘Lune’ felt right the moment it occurred to me. It would refer to the magical land I intended to have my character, Sebastian Wolf, explore. But before I could go ahead and lock ‘Lune’ down there was something I needed to check. You see, I’m a bit of a storytelling magpie, constantly stealing bright and shiny things from the various different media I consume. Sometimes I’m aware I’m recycling someone else’s idea, other times my thievery comes as a complete shock to myself. It’s always depressing to discover you’re not as clever as you think you are.

Fearing this, I jumped onto Google and did a search for any other books called ‘Lune’. Google didn’t turn up any. What it did reveal, however, was that ‘lune’ was most definitely not a word of my own invention. For one thing, it’s both French and Latin for ‘moon’. This shouldn’t have surprised me but it did. I guess I’d never drawn the connection between ‘lunar’ and ‘Lune’? Everyone has blind spots. I’ve got plenty of them.

Delving deeper into Google, I discovered ‘Lune’ is also the crescent-shaped portion of a plane or sphere bounded by two arcs of circles. So, not only does it mean ‘moon’, it’s a mathematical term. Apparently, it’s also a river in England. Sorry, two rivers – one in Cumbria, one in Durham. Oh and, the character, King Lune, appears in The Chronicles of Narnia. Discovering this, I no longer felt comfortable using ‘Lune’ as the name of my story’s magical lands. The ‘moon’ association in particular bothered me. I kept imagining the confused expressions of French children as they read the book – how could the characters breathe in space?

But still, the title felt right…

When I closed my eyes and imagined the cover of my book, it remained Lune. I had to figure out a way to justify the title. So, I looked to my own work. Winter’s Shadow was named after Winter Adams, why couldn’t this book be named after its lead character? I wasn’t married to ‘Sebastian Wolf’. It had always struck me as a little mannered. Of course ‘Lune’ was a weird first name for a thirteen year-old London boy, but I saw no problem in it being his last name. It emphasised his ‘otherness’. Most boys at school call each other by their last names so it wouldn’t be strange if he was referred to in the story as ‘Lune’, though he needed a first name too. I settled on ‘Howard’. It’s got a nice rigid formality to it that contrasts with the oddness of ‘Lune’.

So the boy who had been named Sebastian Wolf became Howard Lune and I got to keep my book title. Of course, once the book goes to the publisher that could change. Winter’s Shadow was called Shade right up until the final stages of publication, when it was discovered there was another book coming out at the same time with that title. This could happen again. There might be a book called Lune sitting in a publishing warehouse right now, waiting to be shipped to bookstores. For now though, ‘Lune’ belongs to me. 

MJ.

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