Welcome to Julia Talbot's blog!

Welcome, everyone! Here's where I blather about writing, life with my wife BA, and my two basset hounds! I love to hear from readers, so comment here or email me!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

why is a pen name a sign of dishonesty?

I read a great article by author Julie Isaac today. You can find it here.

In it, she discusses reasons why authors use pen names, and how they can help a writer diversify, shield their private life, or gain confidence before revealing their real name. She lists some great examples, and I would add authors like my favorites, Elizabeth Peters, who is Barbara Mertz and also writes as Barbara Michaels, as well as Jayne Anne Krentz, who writes as Jayne Castle and Amanda Quick. Elizabeth Lowell writes under her pseudonym with her husband.

It's a literary tradition, the pen name, and the fake biography to go with it, just as illustrated by JK Eowling in Julie's article.

So why is it that in the world of ebook and self-publishing the pen name is often vilified?

Now, I want to note that I'm speaking from my own experience. Julia Talbot is not my real name (gasp). When I first started writing m/m, back in 2000, it was often unsafe to publish under your own name. People sent awful emails about turning us into the FBI for illegal activities. One of my best friends, also a m/m writer, got a vacuum sealed dead cat in the mail. when you have day jobs and children and significant others who might lose their livelihoods, you take a pan name.

Then, when I got fairly good at crafting a m/m story, I started publishing with the GLBT publishers. They often asked me to shorten my pen name to J Talbot, just to be less gender specific. I thought about changing my pseudonym to Jules Talbot. I wrote one story under another name. Chris Wolfe. (My middle name is Christina, my Great Grandma's maiden name was Wolfe)

Funny things began to happen. People started accusing me of being dishonest when they "found me out". Readers started trying to tell me I was also any number of other writers on the market. Bloggers posted terrible things about my primary publishers, calling them on a "lack of transparency".

So, why is such a tradition suddenly considered dishonest? I have a theory. The internet age is all about instant access. The days of the writer hiding out in a garret is a thing of the past (though it was mostly fiction, anyway). Fans, bloggers, even publishers believe that they have a right to the real Julia Talbot, whoever that is, and they want personal interaction. No one wants to believe that writers, especially those of us who write erotic romance, are middle aged, or pathologically shy, or just plain bad at human interaction. The instant gratification, the Internet construct, makes it harder and harder for an author to maintain a private life under another name.

So, is it really dishonest to have a pen name. I don't think so, and I was really glad to see Julie's article describe the reasons why writers might want to use one!

What are y'all's thoughts?



No comments: