What’s in a Name?

In Books, Gay, Inspiration, Something Like Summer by Jay Bell

The Many Loves of Benjamin Bentley: A cover from an alternate realityLast week, a handful of people happened to ask why I decided to name Something Like Summer what I did. To me, this coincidence was the cosmos saying “Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!” And explain I will.

I’ve often said I’d rather write an entire book than a single synopsis. The same applies to choosing a title for a book. It’s so incredibly hard to sum up an entire story with just a few words. Impossible, really, so the best you can do is create an evocative title that makes a potential reader want to learn more. The working title of Something Like Summer was The Many Loves of Benjamin Bentley. A little long, but I liked it. Originally I planned on showing many more of Ben’s failed relationships, but then Tim and Jace ended up hogging the book. I was tempted to use the title anyway, until The Mysterious Case of Benjamin Button came out. Thieving Hollywood bastards! Suddenly I needed a new title. Thus began a month of me pestering anyone that would listen: Friends over email and phone, the checkout lady at the grocery store, and even Andreas in the bedroom. Inevitably, each clever title we thought up was already taken.

Not a romantic comedy starring Joseph Gordon-LevittThen inspiration struck. Twelve Years of Summer. Perfect! Or so I thought. As a professional hermit, I don’t pay much attention to what’s going on in the world. My editor saved me/broke my spirit when she informed me of a recent movie called (500) Days of Summer. This time Hollywood had beat me to the punch. Their title was just close enough to make me appear a copycat—or worse—that I had written a parody. Back to the drawing board. I ate psychedelic mushrooms, fasted except for chewing gum, and conversed solely with small pebbles. Then I came up with it. Something Like Summer. But what does it mean? I recently posed this question on Twitter, and these are some of the replies:

@WanderingReclus (MacKenzie Stewart) said: “I thought the title meant to symbolize the heat and intensity of Ben and Tim’s relationship.”

@ladykatana70 (Stacia Hess) added: “because it makes you hot and sweaty..lol”

These two responses show why I wanted “summer” in the title. Summer conjures up visions of passion, heat, and sweat. The book is more romantic than erotic, but these associations also apply to intense emotion. But does the title mean more? Here are more responses:

@rolypolywoly (Alan) said: “Thought it might be ‘Something Like Summer’ ’cause the summer Ben & Tim meet is a starting point that reverberates through the story.”

@TaylorSalley (Taylor Salley) said: “Because summer is something really good that we all have a hard time letting go of. Much like Ben and Tim’s relationship.”

Leave a question for the reader to answer, and chances are, they’ll come up with something brilliant. I love the symbolism that these readers picked up on. I’m tempted to lie and say that’s exactly what I intended. My answer is much simpler. To me, summer is the time of year that I feel the best, both physically and emotionally. Perfect blue sky days when the sun warms my skin and makes the world beautiful—those summer moments make me feel sixteen again. There’s only one other thing that makes me feel so blissfully content. Love is something like summer.

There it is, my personal interpretation of the title, but that doesn’t make it true. The book has been set free and is out there in the world, romping through fields of imagination that no longer belong to me, and that’s how it should be. The title means what you want it to mean, and the story now belongs to you.

Er… Not legally of course. 😉