OK, so I’ve totally changed my mind about my NaNo Novel. Hey, I’m only 10,000 words in; it’s not too late to start fresh. Instead of this high-concept semi-historical novel about a time-travelling monk who meets a disgruntled graduate student and they somehow both help each other resolve their life crises, I’m going to go with a romance.
It’s going to be about this girl who is young, beautiful, nubile, wide-eyed, ingenuous, and perhaps just a little naive. Dumb, you might even say. And she goes on this vacation to Italy, and she meets this big wheeler-dealer financier from, let’s say, Naples, who may or may not have connections to organized crime, and she’s appalled by his amoral attitude towards finance and life, yet drawn to his chiselled chest, his rock-hard jawline, and his melting liquid brown eyes. So then he kidnaps her and takes her to this Greek island (which he owns, cause he’s a billionaire and owns islands) and she’s SOOOO angry, but there’s nothing she can do, so she just has to stay there and be all, like, captive and helpless. And she can’t get over how gorgeous he is, even though he’s all wicked and cruel, and eventually she admits she loves him and they become lovers and eventually get married and live happily ever after.
And I think The Amoral Neopolitan Financier’s Ingenuous Nubile Paramour would be a nice, catchy title, don’t you?
What’s that? You don’t think that’s a great title? But if I called it that, it could slip right into a line of romances published by a certain major romance publisher. The line is called “The Mediterranean Princes” and some of the actual, honest-to-goodness titles I saw on my drugstore rack this morning include: The Mediterranean Prince’s Captive Virgin, The Greek Tycoon’s Disobedient Bride, and The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Love Child. I promise you I am NOT MAKING THIS UP.
You know, I try really really hard to be respectful of other people’s reading and writing tastes, and I don’t normally like to mock romances, because there are some good romance writers out there and I totally get why people enjoy reading them. I have even written a rather romance-y piece of Christian women’s fiction myself, modestly titled Sunrise Hope and coming out in 2010 (though not from the aforementioned big romance publisher).
But I do have to wonder … is anyone out there picking up copies of a book called The Greek Tycoon’s Disobedient Bride entirely without irony? I find that hard to believe. Also, the titles just slay me. They are obviously mass-generated by the publisher. It always amuses me to see how authors, especially beginning authors, agonize and slave over finding just the perfect title that encapsulates the spirit of their novel. The publishers have it right: just develop a simple formula. In this case, the title must reference the hero’s wealth and his “Mediterranean” heritage (guys who aren’t Greek or Italian need not apply, particularly if they’re not wealthy and of noble birth), and a reference to the heroine as bride, virgin, mistress or captive. References to pregnancy or babies are, surprisingly, OK too: can you just not wait to get a copy of The Greek Tycoon’s Baby Bargain? Seems to me that would ruin the romance mood, but if you’re breeding heirs for billionaires, maybe you’re not so concerned about that.
I’m also amused by the preponderence of billionaires in these titles. Millionaires are so last-century: they don’t even make the cut anymore. Gotta have a billion if you want to impress the babes. (I will confess my personal favourite of these titles has to be The Italian Billionaire’s Ruthless Revenge). According to Forbes magazine there are less than 1000 billionaires in the world, but I guess that’s a large enough pool to draw on that we can assume at least a few dozen of them are Mediterranean, single, heart-breakingly attractive, and have enough spare time to kidnap and ravish attractive young girls.
Now, I do know there’s a certain craft to these things (having actually once gotten a rejection from a big romance publisher; you can imagine that was one of my proudest writing moments). I think, however, that the craft is less in creating memorable, effective prose and more in understanding the formula and writing to it. Honestly, if romance writers don’t like the stereotype of their work being formulaic, perhaps they should resist the trend to have their novels marketed under titles that sound like they were assembled from a list of cut-up adjectives (one from column A, two from column B). At the same time, as I said, the publishers do know what sells.
I know, I won’t abandon my story: I’ll repackage it. The Anglo-Saxon Monastic’s Incongruously Modern Mistress. Cover shot of Sara and Bede tangled in the sheets, his robe ruthlessly tossed aside as they grapple with each other in the fading light of a Mediterranean sunset … wait, how am I going to get them both to the Mediterranean? That’s going to take one heck of a plot twist. OK, a St. John’s fogbank, then. That’ll draw readers in.
So, whaddya you think? Change the title or change the whole plot concept to match current marketing strategies? Maybe next NaNo I’ll have time to get back to my amoral Neopolitan financier….