|working title and cover design|
My first working title for my book was ‘Cruising to a Life Together’. It has since evolved many times over and that story is in itself entertaining. From the theme that surfaced as dominant, the patriotic theme, it became ‘Cruising to a Life Together. Becoming an American.’ Many of our American friends in the RVing community were attracted to this, wondering what this late-age immigrant has to say about being accepted into the US as a naturalized citizen.
But my editor raised her concern about this title. Chit said it should not be ‘Cruising to a Life Together’ because, however, dashing and handsome a character Bill is, the story really is about me! So I changed it to ‘Cruising with Bill. Becoming an American.’ not wanting to drop the second phrase that was so attractive to our American friends. But Bill objected because he did not want to be the ‘dog’. In John Steinbeck’s classic, Travels with Charley, Charley was a dog! He suggested ‘Carolina Cruising’ because it is really a story about me. Admittedly, there is a nice ring to it! So it became ‘Carolina Cruising. Becoming an American.’
But when I started to think about what to write in query letters to literary agents who can pitch my book to traditional publishers, I had to dissect my target market and delineate my purposes. This is how the main paragraphs of my Query Letter ended up being:
“There are hundreds of books about RV odysseys. After all there are eight million RV enthusiasts and thirty million RVers in the US. But not one is about a late-age Asian immigrant, then 59, who had just retired from the Philippine business landscape and dared to plunge into a biracial marriage with 63-year old Caucasian American Bill. I have had plenty of adventure as a jet-setting executive from corporate Philippines, but it wasn’t the cruising kind: aimless (no big aims), effortless (no big efforts), timeless (no big dictates on time), deeply personal, enjoyable, and meaningful drive through life
My family raised their eyebrows, of course, but nothing could stop me from this never-ending honeymoon! And so for four and a half years, we traveled to forty-nine American states, nine Canadian provinces and six Mexican states in two kinds of RVs, a scooter, and a dinghy. We crossed the continent six times and traveled nearly a hundred thousand miles. We were, after all, star-crossed lovers, not looking for love, but looking to stay in love in this, my third try (also his).
Thrust into a largely white community, I not only soaked up America’s sights (thirty National Parks and eighty National Monuments and countless others) but also immersed myself in American culture and history (thirty of forty-four presidents’ and other legends’ homes). Within the cozy confines of a 350-sq. ft. motor home, lessons came as fast as the scenes changed. I not only learned how to be a wife without losing my identity, despite cultural and gender differences made bigger by late-age rigidity and ‘get-there-it is’. I also became an American without losing my roots, not getting boiled into the soup melting in the pot but mixed into a chunky stew, contributing to the taste, but retaining my flavor.
‘Carolina Cruising’ is a retirement story like no other. It is my retreat to America to feed a fascination, find a friend, and fly to freedom. By the time any natural born, permanent resident or future immigrant American finishes reading this story, he or she will feel that he can have a dream even at a late age from anywhere in the world. And, using whatever means of ‘transportation’, he can achieve it amid the beauty of his adopted country for the first time!”
And I worried about the title. I gave Bill a line-up of fourteen titles to choose from and this was his number 1 choice: ‘Carolina Cruising. A Road Trip across America.’ And when I started writing to several literary agents, I felt compelled to change it to the more thought provoking title, ‘Carolina Cruising. An Immigrant’s Road Trip across America. Then, somehow I wrote it in reply to a query on Facebook. Then some friends thought it to be too direct. I shared this post on FB and now there are about 9 choices. Which do you think it should be? Your vote will help me a lot!