Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Undercover


Next week, I'm heading to Ohio for the RT Convention. It's my first time, and I'm really excited about going. For the past few weeks, I've been shopping, planning, organizing, and getting everything in order so the almost-week I'm going to be gone runs smoothly for the rest of the family.(3 kids + 3 piano lessons + 3 sports schedules = panic time!)

I'm extra-excited about going this year because my book, Lessons Learned, is nominated for an RT Award for Best Indie Press Contemporary Romance. But when people ask where I'm going, I give a vague, "writer's conference," and change the subject.

Why?

Because the vast majority of the people in my town have no idea I'm published.

The fact that I write isn't a secret - I've had short stories and articles published under my real name, and the local paper even did a story on me years ago. And when we first moved to town, I wasn't shy about talking about the writing.

But when I sold my first book, I chose not to share the good news.

See, originally I wrote sweet romance manuscripts, with the closed bedroom door. In the conservative area where we live, this was perfectly acceptable. But what I eventually sold was Taking the Cake, with a pseudo-stripper heroine. There were no closed doors involved. Add in a career in the educational field, and it seemed the better part of valor to take a pen name and keep it private.

It's worked out pretty well. I can write what I want without worrying about any impact on my day job. I get to have a secret identity, which is cool. And most important of all, I can keep my second career without asking anyone's permission.
Still, sometimes I wish I could tell. Like now, when my real life friends aren't quite sure why I'm so excited to be going to Ohio.
What are your thoughts on pen names? Pros, cons, funny stories?

10 comments:

Meg Benjamin said...

I was in a similar situation (some day I'd like to know how many romance writers are teachers in "real life"). I had a lot of pubs under my real name, but they were all things like textbooks, and I had good reason to believe my colleagues wouldn't be exactly supportive of my new life. Plus being Meg gave me a new identity, which helped me find a new voice too. Personally, I like it!

Debra St. John said...

I, too, in "real" life am in the education field, so my second life as a spicy romance writer was best kept separate from that. So, I do use a pen name. (And I generally don't post pictures of myself on line.)

Erin Nicholas said...

First, Kate, CONGRATULATIONS! I'm so excited for you and your well-deserved nomination :)

Second, I'm totally on board with the pen name thing. Not only do I live in a small town but also work in a profession where I don't want to mix the two. I kind of like the undercover bit, too!

Have a great time in Ohio!
Erin

PG Forte said...

First of all, congrats, Kate and fingers crossed. You go, girl!

I guess I'm lucky in that I don't have to worry what anyone in my real life thinks about my writing. On the other hand, I can tell you, most of them really don't care...I kinda wish they all thought I was scandalous. lol! Unfortunately, that's not the case.

I decided to use my initials because a) I'm lazy, b) my whole name is really long and c) I never thought it went together all that well (sorry, Mom and Dad).

I never really thought about having a separate writing persona--and I would have sworn I wouldn't like it (too split-personality crazy making!) but the first time someone referred to me as PG I realized I had one anyway--and I love it!

Maia Strong said...

I've said it before, but congrats on your RT nomination! I'm so jazzed for you!

Personally, I love having a pen name even though, working in theatre, I'm fine telling people what I write. I've even gotten some "Oo! Do you have a card? Where can I buy your stuff?" But I enjoy having another persona that isn't everyday-me. What can I say? A chance to play a character and yet still be me? Irresistable!

When asked why I have a pen name, my answer remains constant: I have relatives in Eastern Washington. They're good people, and one cousin is very supportive, but I just don't know how they'd handle my choice of genres. ;) (For those who don't know, rural Ea.Wa. is rather more conservative than the city I live in.) This is why, when I finally get my non-erotic stuff published, I'm going with yet another name. I even have it picked out, that's how much I embrace my multiple personality addicition. ;)

Kinsey Holley said...

Most of my friends know what I write, but I don't want people I go to church with, or the parents at Diva's very conservative Episcopal school, to know. I just can't imagine what their reactions would be were they to read my very graphic sex scenes. There's also a lot of profanity in my books - hell, there's a lot of profanity in my Tweets!

It is weird having this alternate identity. I'm way freer with my opinion, saltier with my language, more careless of what I say under the Kinsey pseudonym. None of my family or close friends would be shocked at any of it, but work, church and school people would be.

I don't know if that means I should be at a different church or a different school. It's just the way my life is working right now. If it weren't for Kinsey's book sales, Diva wouldn't be going to her very good, very conservative school.

My SIL was talking about a girl she knows who dances at an upscale strip club. Both her kids are in expensive Catholic schools, and it would be bad if anyone knew what she did for a living. I kinda know how she feels.

Kinsey Holley said...

I can't believe I forgot to say - congrats Kate!

Kelly Jamieson said...

Congratulations Kate! That's so exciting. I guess I'd be in the same situation though, since not many people know I write and under what name. I do it for the same reasons as everyone else - the day job and not wanting a conflict there. But sometimes I feel proud of what I've done and it would be nice to share that.

Meg Benjamin said...

Congrats Kate! Knock 'em dead.

Kate Davies said...

Thanks, everyone! And for the record, RT just posted the nominee and winners list on their website, so I can officially announce - I won! Yay!

And I'm glad to not be alone in the whole pen-name thing. I do enjoy the freedom, but it can be just a little disappointing not to be able to share fun news like this.