What do I call The Book? O the dilemma!
I started with “The Rusalka Virus” as my working title, but I knew that was off the table, as it sounds like a contemporary thriller–not a novel set in an alternate version of 19th century Russia, featuring serfs turned hybrid supernatural creatures whose enhancements last the entire month, while their negative traits, such as vampirism and and pyromania, are tied to the full moon.
So what about: “Fire Rusalka“? This is closer. Vasilisa, my main character, is a unique hybrid–she has the strength of the lycanthrope, without any of its negative side effects. And, she has the charisma of the rusalka–a kind of nymph in Russian mythology whose voice and face create a kind of compulsive fascination that they use to draw unwitting mortals to their watery graves. I made up the idea of a rusalka associated with the element of fire, so this is a different take that might intrigue those who are familiar with the mythology. So, for the tiny subset of the population who are fond of the rusalka myth, this might be an intriguing title.
But the problem is that most people don’t know what a rusalka is–and this unfamiliar word, so prominently featured in the title could go either way. It might be intriguing (I’d be the one to whip out my phone and look it up), or it might be a turn-off. If I went with a title like this, then the cover art would need to offset the unfamiliarity of the word “rusalka” in the title and intrigue people into digging more deeply.
I also considered “Konstantin’s Gifts“. Konstantin is the villain of the piece. He is the psychopathic nobleman who distilled and mixed the various supernatural viruses and injected his serfs with them, resulting in these hybrids, some of whom are deeply troubled by their compulsions. But, given that they are also stronger, faster and more charismatic than average humans, Konstantin thinks that he has gifted them, and he doesn’t understand why they’re so pissed. He’s also a man with looks, intelligence and charisma of his own–not insignificant gifts–but he has used them as only a psychopath can, unfortunately.
And finally, there’s “Vasilisa the Brave“–who is the heroine in the story of Baba Yaga. The Baba Yaga story is explicitly referenced in the book, as when my character Vasilisa (Vasya for short) was a child, her mother used to tell her that she was descended from the Vasilisa of the fairytale, and was named after her. This, again, has some resonance, particularly for those who are familiar with the Baba Yaga story. It has a folklorish feel. And yet…
I’ve been swapping the names around on the website a fair bit. One day, it’s “Fire Rusalka”, the next it’s “Konstantin’s Gifts”. This is me, feeling out the branding. This is part of that whole “I’m SO not an expert at this” side of things. But I’ll figure it out. And it will be fun to try out the different names and to swap them through, until the right one comes along. I do hope it will come soon, though.