Five Titles In Search Of A Novel

I’ve been writing historical romance since I was 17, and since then I’ve never wanted to write any other kind of novel. I don’t get plot bunnies for them, either.

What I do get are titles.

Seriously, I have a whole list of titles for never-to-be-written novels in such genres as:

The Great American Novel: Meet Me in Sumner J. Calish Square.
The Great American Expatriate Novel: The Bushes in Paris Have Thorns.
The Great Jewish-American Novel: Envious Kishke (and its sequel, Kaddish Cheese).
The Great American Novel with a Southern Setting: A Jar Big Enough to Hold the Sky.

I have no desire to actually WRITE any of these books. I don’t know anything about their plots or characters, and anyway my talent is for writing an entirely different kind of book. But what I love about them is that you can tell from the title exactly what KIND of book they would be.

Obviously romance titles are often instantly recognizable too, and a lot of the time you can even guess subgenre: historical, paranormal, romantic suspense, comedy, &c. Which is something I love. I think it’s amazing how genres and subgenres develop their own style and culture and conventions that a community of writers and readers can play with and follow and subvert and love and laugh at and share and make their own.

I love fake books and book titles within novels, too, so long as it’s done with affection–for example, The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death in Ellen Kushner’s Riverside novels.

I also love when real period titles get a mention. In In for a Penny, my hero reads Chronicles of an Illustrious House; or the Peer, the Lawyer, and the Hunchback. That’s an actual book published by the Minerva Press in 1816, and it’s much funnier than anything I could have come up with on my own!

Of course, it’s not foolproof. For example, when I first saw the movie poster for “Immortal Beloved,” I was CONVINCED it was going to be a vampire movie. You’ve got the intense 19th century guy in a red cravat, the beautiful women with chokers, and of course, the name–“Immortal Beloved.” (Obviously, I knew nothing about the life of Beethoven.) I was completely stunned at being wrong. All the signs were there!

Does anyone else make up titles for books you’ll never write? And if so, what are your titles?

And was there ever a time you were fooled by a title?

2 thoughts on “Five Titles In Search Of A Novel”

  1. I'm pretty sure I remember saying to you at the time, "Wait, that ISN'T a vampire movie?!"

    You remembered Sumner J. Calish Square! I'm kind of tempted to buy real estate there, now, in case someone writes the novel and the neighborhood becomes famous and hip.

  2. Who could forget Sumner J. Calish Square? I support you buying a house there, because whether the neighborhood becomes famous or not, that is a good place to be able to say you live.

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