Intersection of Worlds

I made the decision years ago to use a pen name.  There were a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that there is another writer out there with my legal name who’d already bought up all the internet real estate.  Nobody ever spells it right anyway.  But part of my motivation was to keep my writing life and my real life very separate.  Not in a trying to protect my identity from crazy stalkers kind of way, but more because I’m actively pursuing a means OUT of my Evil Day Job, and I’d just as soon put off my boss finding out about it until I can actually, you know, LEAVE (because she’s going to lose her shit, as I’ve done a great job making myself indispensable).

There are people in my real life who know about my dual identity, of course.  My immediate family, my close friends.  There are a few more who know that I write, but don’t know under what name.  And that’s fine with me.  I like having the split.  Because I really don’t want to try to explain in person to non writers who actually know me any of the stupid questions non writers inevitably ask (non writers, don’t take this personally–we know you’re just interested, but we get these questions a lot).

Anyway, the wife of a friend of ours grabbed a copy of Genesis the last time we saw them, and I got a lovely Facebook message last night about how much she enjoyed Forsaken and was looking forward to the rest, and did I have anything else out because she gets on a jag and wants more.

It felt…weird.

I mean, obviously, I’m thrilled that she liked my work and wants to read more, and she didn’t say anything I haven’t gotten before from fans I’ve never met, but it felt different.  Almost like…I don’t know, an invasion of my privacy.  Which is stupid.  My books are out there for public consumption.  That’s totally the point.  We want people to like them and tell friends and so on.

But I felt…exposed.  Like that dream where you go to work naked or something.

Kristen is always talking about not hiding behind pen names because the people we know IRL can end up being our biggest supporters.  And maybe that will be true eventually when I’m able to come out of the closet, so to speak.  But for now I’m just feeling kind of awkward and shy.

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10 comments

  1. I actually wish I could let more people know who I really am. It kills my mom that she can’t tell EVERYONE. If it weren’t for some of my fellow Christian friends who totally disapprove of anything paranormal (one of them threw away his daughter’s copy of Twilight) or sexual (my books aren’t that graphic), I would “come out of the closet”. These aren’t bad people, they just think differently from me. Anyway, that separation has other benefits, almost like a cushion between worlds. I do like keeping the worlds separate…I just hate keeping one world secret.

    I know that feels weird when someone you know in your IRL world reads something of yours. I understand that awkward and shy part. Your comparison to the dream of going to work naked was perfect! But I know you’re really happy that the reader liked it so much. Writers go through so many emotions about their work, don’t they? 🙂

  2. Well, I get the keep the separate from your day job piece. I use my real name and some of my coworkers have now latched onto my blog for things like author interviews. But then I wonder who’s reading the other posts. And since I too dream of making my boss freak out (hopefully by quitting before Black Friday, but I doubt it) I have to watch what I say.

    Try focusing on the positive in this. If she likes your books, she’s going to be an advocate for you and would respect your wishes of using the pen name. It may feel strange, but the truth is: she’s just another fan! And that’s great!

  3. I don’t use a pen name, and yes it is awkward when people you know read your works. I read a post by someone once that said they had held many a book signing but never did one in their local area. They were afraid someone might know them.
    I recently held my first book signing event and was overjoyed to see that my supporters were my highschool classmates, whom I had not seen in thirty years. I also had one co-worker who in the beginning did not want her kids reading fantasy because she was a strict christian. She was the only co-worker who came to my event.
    I’m not too afraid of my bosses knowing that I write. In fact my department boss kind of scoffs at the idea and they really have not clue to how my books are selling. They are all saying: Ya right, you write books and your still here. (LOL)
    I just shrug them off. I know who my supporters are and it feels good to know they are rooting for you to keep on writing.

  4. I don’t use a pen name. I do find it a little awkward when a family or friend comments on my paranormal romance book written strictly for adults 🙂 Other than that, I like using my real name.
    Kate, I do hope you get to quit the day job soon. It’s something nearly all of us would love to be able to do and focus full time on our writing.

  5. Oh – to have something published besides a few poems in unknown literary journals and a real job to worry about. Well, a real job would at least bring a paycheck, which would be a nice thing. The last two years of my life, which my husband had set aside for me to make it or break it in the literary world, were instead devoted to a series of family crises which sort of got in the way of becoming the famous author I assumed I already would be. The book is written, a was blog started and I got out a few submissions before all the disasters began, but now my husband is wondering where the royalty checks are.

    Here’s hoping you can chuck your non-writing job sooner rather than later.

  6. I struggled with this before deciding to use my name. I’m still shy and awkward about people finding out. Last weekend, one of my friends introduced me to a stranger and told the woman and her friends that I’m an author. I got all kinds of questions that were odd to answer–mostly because I’m not published yet.

  7. I have always strongly disagreed with how Kristen (and Dean Wesley Smith) have made light of privacy and security concerns when it comes to using one’s real name online, but there are reasons beyond those that it’s a good idea.

    My pen names are part of my business identity. Except for cases of social justice, usually directly related to publishing or the Internet, they are apolitical. They are more focused and career-driven than I am. 😉 On the flip side, my pen names are not as inhibited as I am about what I write for public consumption — their only concern is whether the work can sell to someone, somewhere.

    Having a pen name (or three, or four…) means I separate my writing from my ego. My friends will only know I’m successful when and if I tell them or buy my own house. Since my real-life persona is not connected to my pseudonyms in any way, my business decisions are by definition divorced from personal desires that may be detrimental to my long-term success. I don’t expect to have my real name on my books, and I don’t want to reveal myself in the future.

    The problem with family and friends knowing what you write is that many of them don’t share the same reading habits or tastes as I do. My parents not only don’t read erotica (LOL), they also don’t read dark fantasy, and a lot of my friends are the same way. They shouldn’t have to say they’ll read my work if they don’t want to just to avoid hurting my feelings, and I don’t feel pressured to push my work on them or beg for reviews — something I don’t ethically feel comfortable with doing.

    Of course, there are always the horror stories — the Judy Mays incident, the campaign in Maine where a woman running for the state senate played WoW under her real name and was accused of being immoral on billboards and in other ads — but on the whole, it’s mostly about privacy. It’s nobody’s business who I am offline, because online, my words and actions should speak for themselves. 🙂

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