♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
Did you write under a pseudonym? Why?
Welcome back to another Open Book Blog Hop! The authors included in this ongoing series wish to thank you for your reads. We appreciate, even more so, when you share our writings with your friends. If you’re new to the series, welcome aboard. The authors engage and impress weekly. Prepare to become a regular reader.
Pseudonyms are an absolute necessity for many writers. A great many well-known people have used false names to shelter their real life from their writing. Much personal thought went into what I would put on the book cover to mark my properties. And, there were many reasons to do so.
Firstly, an overtly feminine name has been known to quell readership. Ridiculous, I know, but being feminine somehow equates to less knowledgeable to far more people than we’d like to admit. Old bias dies hard!
Did you know that in the infancy of filmmaking making, women were believed to be the best suited for screenwriting?
It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, or if we consciously believe these things or not. The bias remains and operates on our choices. As the decades have passed, that has become increasingly less of an issue–except in science fiction and historical genres. The bias is still hanging pretty tough there, bolstered by a readership who prefer certain things a certain way. This too will change, right along with the generations who are coming along to be readers and don’t cater to these archaic ways anymore.
Secondly, I thought a great deal about what I planned to write and if those topics might go along ground I didn’t want closely associated with myself. For instance, if I wrote romance, did I want those sexual aspects connected to me, and deal with the people who would make up their minds about me tied to that. Being a survivor of abuse, this was frightening in ways a lot of people don’t have to think about.
The problem is, just like with gender issues (this is tied deeply to an aspect of it), certain people think that talking about sex means things about you and your behavior. In other words, they would think I was promiscuous. Men might think I knew things or did things I didn’t actually know, but research and liberal writing license… And, we know that when certain members of certain parts of society think you’re a certain way, they think they can take liberties. Beside that, there are those who think we may deserve ill intent because we engage in certain acts.
Being a sex-positive person, I know this is absolute tripe. No one should regard you in negative ways or determine you wroth of negative intentions for healthy adult sexual activity or even writing about it. It’s normal! Yet, our society has far too many members who decide things that are silly and destructive and run with it. You still have to consider consequences. When you’re a survivor, this becomes a peak anxiety point. Protecting yourself, whether you should have to or not is a priority. Attracting negative attention isn’t something you want to accomplish.
Next, I was concerned about being thought a fraud, or failing in someway that would besmirch my name for all time. It can happen. Look at how JK Rowling has defiled both her series and her name with her recent behavior. So many authors fall into this trap. When you don’t check yourself, you wreck yourself.
Are we entitled to our beliefs? Absolutely. You’re also entitled to the judgment that follows those beliefs. Keeping with JK as an example–furthering negative ideas around transwomen is dangerous and abhorrent. Airing those ideas publicly has real life consequences, which could result in injury or death for people. JK’s ideology is her responsibility to deal with, and she is entitled, I suppose, to feel as she does. However, when that crosses into the public realm from a highly regarded personality, it becomes the problem of the entirety of humanity. Unfortunately, JK is on the wrong side of history here and done real harm–to herself as well.
What if I were so very wrong about something, to the point I couldn’t hear those trying to educate me? It’s happened on small things. The ego gets in the way. You think you know more. Likely one thinks they know better. Humility is so very important in the public sphere, any sphere. We really don’t know everything, especially in the social arena. Being willing to adjust and hear others speak on their expertise is super important. But, again, what if I fail them and myself? What if I don’t listen? What if my fragility stops me?
In this day and age, a false name protects you in limited ways. The more thorough you are, the better. You would need to make an absolute separation–not even an image, or a false public appearance to go along with the name. If you did something detestable, the people would be coming for you, and they have ways to unmask you. I’ve watched terrible people get unmasked online in the matter of hours, and outed–losing jobs and clout. It’s a major risk to be a terrible person, but shouldn’t it be?
A pseudonym is useful to those writing subjects and details in their work that they don’t want personally connected with their non-writing persona, such as romance and sex. And, this is effective. No one is going to come for you. They’re not trying to find who you are to stop you and protect society–unless we slipped into The Hand Maid’s Tale suddenly (almost there, but not quite). For the lighter side, it makes sense to buffer yourself. If you’re writing memoir or sexy tales, it will work for you.
For me, writing socially conscious items in dark fantasy and historical fiction, I can’t hide. My commentary matters and I need to be as well-versed in critical race and social theory, as the topic of history I chose. To this day, it still makes me nervous that I wrote Blue Honor. But, it is my hope that it is clear that being historically accurate and facing the white privilege in subtle and overt ways was the point, just as exploring the ideas of repressed women was the point. Writing Hettie was the hardest thing I have ever done. She’s not my wheelhouse, but her experience couldn’t go ignored, nor omitted. In the end, I own this. I can only hope that should I gain wide reaching popularity, that Blue is useful for discussions on race and privilege.
In the end, I chose only to use my first initial but my real name. There are sexually explicit scenes in my work, but they’re not erotic. Therefore, I’m not concerned about the attitudes of others regarding this. I write in historical and paranormal, sci-fi/fantasy. I’ll be that woman pushing the boundaries, and providing stories of worth here regardless of sexism (because it’s dying). I chose to write socially conscious work. The repercussions of that are well-known to me, but change doesn’t come without risk. That risk is worth it!
I own my work fully and face that which will come of it. I had the balls to publish it. There are necessary discussions in the works that I hope I have addressed in caring and successful ways. I may have missed the mark, and that will be on me. For me, there’s no place to hide from repercussions if I messed up royally. Criticism, besides, is necessary to the growth of society. May I ever be a catalyst for the positive growth of my world. You’ll know who I am, even if I have a fake name, because I chose to work in arena where that comes out. Wish me luck!
Check out the other authors on the blog hop to see if they work with pseudonyms and why…