Today on my blog I’m thrilled to welcome Kate Vane, author of The Former Chief Executive. It’s publication day for Kate’s novel and she’s very kindly written a fab post for my blog about the story behind her title for this novel.
The Story Behind the Title – The Former Chief Executive
I usually only give my books a title quite late in the writing process. While I was writing The Former Chief Executive, the name of the file on my computer was ‘garden novel’ because the garden setting was key for me. I had an image in my mind of the garden almost as a theatre set, where key interactions take place, and are observed and overheard.
In The Former Chief Executive, Deborah has been forced into early retirement following a tragedy at the hospital she ran. She is experiencing a number of losses – the death of her husband has come on top of the end of her career and the damage to her reputation. She comes to know Luca through a garden share scheme, where he takes care of her garden in exchange for a share of the produce. Luca is young but appears to have had a troubled past.
While the setting is important, for me, character is key. Deborah is a strong woman and the title reflects it. It was partly a reaction against the plethora of titles in recent years with ‘wife’ or ‘daughter’ in the title (and don’t get me started on ‘girl’). I believe ‘wife’ was initially used ironically, to say that beside the man in the title there is a woman with talents and feelings and aspirations who should be judged on her own terms, but that meaning soon became lost.
I wanted to play with the reader’s assumptions. Most people will, on first hearing the term ‘chief executive’, instinctively think of a man, even if we wish we didn’t. The cover, though, prominently features a woman (thanks to Ilaria Rosselli Del Turco who kindly allowed me to use this gorgeous portrait). I hope the juxtaposition of the title and the image will pique the reader’s interest.
The title crucially refers to the fact that Deborah is a former chief executive. Her role was a key part of her identity but she no longer feels that she is that person. It is also the language of the media, which describes people in cold, concrete terms, without nuance. It is a description she recognises. Her very sense of self is undermined.
The Former Chief Executive is about a woman who feels that all her achievements and happiness are behind her. A woman who is afraid to even say her name. Luca, by contrast, is trying to leave his past behind, to live in the present and to build a new life. Their relationship forces her to assess her past and asks her to make choices about who she is and what matters to her.
About the Book
Without your past, who are you?
Deborah was a respected hospital manager until a tragedy destroyed her reputation. She has lost her career, her husband and even her name.
Luca wants to stay in the moment. For the first time in his life he has hope and a home. But a fresh start is hard on a zero-hours contract, harder if old voices fill your mind.
When a garden share scheme brings them together, Deborah is beguiled by Luca’s youth and grace. He makes her husband’s garden live again. He helps her when she’s at her lowest. But can she trust him? And when the time comes to confront her past, can she find the strength?
This sharply drawn short novel explores the distance between the generations – between health and wealth, owners and workers, guilt and blame.
The Former Chief Executive is published on 8 June in paperback and Kindle
About the Author
Kate Vane is the author of three novels, The Former Chief Executive, Not the End and Recognition.
She has written for BBC drama Doctors and was a shortlisted BBC Talent Drama Writer. She has had short stories and articles published in various publications and anthologies, including Mslexia and Scotland on Sunday, and received a Yorkshire Arts award for her first novel.
She lived in Leeds for a number of years where she worked as a probation officer. She now lives on the Devon coast.
You can find Kate on her blog: katevane.wordpress.com