Now, I realize my confession is not on par with Paula Deen announcing she has Type 2 diabetes while making a hamburger squashed between two donughts*, however, writing under a penname is not without its problems.
One danger is creating a situation I like to call the big fake out. This is what happens when you fall so deeply into your author alterego that you forget it’s not real.
An example of this is AJ Llewellyn. AJ identifies as a transgendered man but was blogging as a gay male going so far as to write “blog posts about coming out, being a victim of gay bashing, and even hired a man to sign for him at a booksigning,” according to Dear Author. AJ apolgized to readers, but it was too late for many. They felt betrayed, not because AJ wasn’t a guy, but because the self biography had become fiction presented as reality. None of that had anything to do with how well AJ writes or the quality of his books, but it may well have permanently limited the audience for his books.
Another downside to a penname is feeling like your pants are going to catch fire at any moment. There are a set of my fellow writers who know me by my real name. Others who, along with my readers, know me as Avery. It’s still weird to type Avery at the bottom of an e-mail or sign it on the first page of a book. I can’t help it, I’m a Midwesterner at heart and it seems like a lie – a white lie – but still a lie. And even though what I say and do as Avery, I’d say with my real name, I feel funny.
So why write under a psydonym? Lots of reasons, chief among them being my writing won’t put fill my fridge and pay for my kids’ shoes – yet. Until that happens I have to keep the day job, which requires I keep my author life separate from my real life. Bummer, I know. But if you buy more books and I’ll come out of the closet. 🙂
* The donught hamburger his is a real thing. Here’s the recipe.