Who would have thought a single line could be so difficult to write?
Throughout the entire eighteen-month writing process, my novel was called The Ballo Brothers, which was the name of my grandfather’s vaudeville act. He and his partner are the central figures in the story, which is set in Paris in the week just before World War I. But there’s a woman who is also a main character, and my agent didn’t think a title with “Brothers” in it was sufficiently accurate.
So about a month ago I began to work on a new title. No problem. I’ve always been fairly good at titles with my short stories. But I drew a blank. I tried short ones, long ones, literal ones and vague ones. I’ve prepared lists of descriptive words and tried dozens of combinations and nothing captures the essence of the story. Opening Acts? Closing Acts? Songs of War? Songs of Discord? Nothing worked. As we’re now ready to solicit publishers, I suggested we submit it as The Novel Formerly Known as The Ballo Brothers. Publishers might not see the humor in that.
Fortunately my agent, Rob Daniel of Andrea Hurst Literary Management is a patient man. Each time he rejected my title efforts he suggested I concentrate on the essence of the book. What is it really about at its core?
I turned to my local writers’ group for help and they gave me some good suggestions, but I still wasn’t there. I even searched web sites having to do with the theater and the war, hoping to find a term or phrase that worked.
And then, finally, without warning or further provocation, an inspiration. As the Music Fades Away, Sure. It captures the tone of the book—Europe slipping from peacetime into war, and has a literary application in that the performers must stop playing when their theater abruptly closes. I think it will work. I’m waiting to hear back from Rob. I hope he likes it. I hope, too, that he doesn’t ask me to start considering pseudonyms. Hmmm. How does the writer formerly known as Joe Ponepinto sound?