Home to one of the nation’s best-known writers conferences and the site of many other book-related events, such as the Santa Barbara Book and Author Festival, this city is virtually overrun with novelists and writers of every stripe. Many of these events are aimed at least as much at aspiring writers as they are at already established authors. Everyone, it seems, wants to write a book.
Writing a book is hard work, however. Getting a book published, as most authors would agree, is even more difficult – and various shortcuts through the process have become popular. Self-publishing, through Internet sites such as Xlibris, is now a booming industry.
But what if the actual process of writing a book is the sticking point? For the lazy author wannabe, Book By You now offers two lines of pre-written novels, which can be personalized by the “co-author,” as the site refers to its customers. Not only do the customers get all the fun of having contributed to a book, they’re also the main characters!
Prospective co-authors can choose from two different types of personalized book: children’s books or romance novels. Both allow the customer to choose character names and physical descriptions, and free previews are available. There’s also some variety in the books themselves – Romance By You has nine different titles, including Medieval Passion, ER Fever, and Pirates of Desire. For those with an interest in the occult, it’s also possible to star in a subgenre romance called Vampire Kisses.
In order to understand just how exciting it can be to see your own name embedded in a fast-paced narrative, I tried Romance By You’s preview function. Unwilling to humiliate anyone I knew by using their name along with my own, I took the site’s suggestion: “Can’t think of a hero? Consider Robert Redford or Brad Pitt!” If you’ve ever wondered what a vampiric love scene between a columnist and a movie star might look like, wonder no further:
Robert looked at Elena, brown eyes bright with passion; his hands shook. “Are you sure?”
She took his face in her hands, drew him near for a kiss as she gazed into his blue eyes. His fangs fully extended; she traced them with her tongue, loving the taste of him. “I am.” It felt like a vow. “I love you.” Elena ran her fingers through his blonde hair then pulled him to her.
He stood it as long as he could, then another moment longer. But finally he had to move, or come undone.
The remainder of the preview has been redacted; there are certain romantic moments I’ve spent with Robert Redford, my vampire lover, which really ought to remain private.
Interestingly enough, while Book By You isn’t the only personalized fiction site out there, the competition has also focused almost entirely on the romantic side of life. Yournovel.com has 24 different books available, in either paperback or hardback, with titles such as Sea Double: A Cruise Romance and Rome: Diamonds, Danger and Desire. Torrid Romance says, “In her novel, she will eat pounds and pounds of chocolate but still weigh less than a doughnut and he, the hero whose thighs can bend steel, will actually understand her needs and shall never interrupt her unless it is to ask, “How can I love you more?””
Thighs that can bend steel and the possibility of weighing less than a doughnut? Torrid, indeed – and almost as exciting as co-authoring a book without having to do more than point and click.
Seen anything strange lately? Let us know about it, and you may see a solution to the mystery here. Contact Elena at firstname.lastname@example.org.