Having a hard time advancing with my book – How to find a suitable and eye-cathching title ?
Four years ago I decided to write a biography of the Red woman, a devoted socialist who lived the most uniqe and interesting life and whose name I’d rather keep secret for the moment. So about 18 months after a long period of research, I began to write.
At some point during my research I started to think about a title for the book which would tell a reader in a few words and as precisely as possible what the book would be about. As I would like to keep my herione’s name secret, for the moment I’ll call her “A”. I quickly penned down a dozen titles. Among my favourites were “The Red Shadow,” which showed that my herione passed through history largerly unoticed and that she was a socialist; “Comrade A”; “The Red”; with an absolute preference for “Comrade A: Incredible Life of the Red Popessa” (female pope). I thought that ‘Red Popessa’ was an exact definition of what A. was all about, the enduring spiritual leader of the underprivileged who lived a most incredible life, the word “Red” explaining that she was not a religious leader but a socialist and spiritual one.
While I was looking for a title, I found out that a well-known literary agent from San Francisco was coming to Paris to give a talk at the English Bookshop, WH Smith, on rue de Rivoli, and I signed up for the event. At the event he announced that he was willing to meet with aspiring writers to talk about their work. The meeting was set for the next morning at the café Lutetia on the left bank starting from 7 AM (!) on a first-come-first-served basis. I was there at 7.15 with two people already waiting to show their work. I will not go into the details of our meeting. The agent thought that the idea was good but that my writing was far from being finished so it still required much more work. My title he exploded into a million pieces. He thought it was inappropriate, the word Popessa being misleading for the reader and not adding anything to the character of my heroine.
I left the coffee shop shattered and prostrate, thinking that my life was over, and spent the rest of the day absolutely miserable and in tears, unable to concentrate on anything at all. But the meeting, after all, had brought fruitful results. I changed my style of writing and found another title which at the moment is – “Strange Comrade A” and which will probably still evolve with the book.