I had no idea the title of my novel on Theodora, The Secret History, would be the source of controversy. I actually borrowed the title from Procopius, the premier historian of the Byzantine Empire, who wrote several official accounts of the reign of Justinian and Theodora.
Then he wrote The Secret History, a scathing account of Justinian and Theodora’s years on the throne in which both Emperor and Empress are literally portrayed as demons. However, this is the historical source with the most details on Theodora’s life, both before and after she wore the crown. Procopius does an admirable job portraying her as a conniving, scheming harlot.
Why must women with a brain almost always be portrayed as evil by their contemporaries? Can’t conniving and scheming be a good thing? And was she really a harlot because she liked to be?
I decided my novel should also be titled The Secret History, mostly because I like to think my version of Theodora’s motivations is closer to the truth than Procopius’.
(And yes, I realize that’s more than a little presumptuous of me. Whatever.)
Those early readers who are familiar with Procopius love the title. Those who don’t are quick to point out that Donna Tartt wrote a recent novel with the same title about six classics students at an elite Vermont college.
I’m not willing to part with the title though, at least not yet. It’s my way of biting my thumb at Procopius. (I might have taken a stab or two at him in the book too. Ha!)
Any suggestions for my title quandary? Have you ever had title issues?