Wednesday, 9 September 2015
Being Jekyll and Hyde: writing under a pen-name (Anne Rooney)
We are used to the notion that internet trolls flourish on anonymity, that they will do and say things they would never dare to do and say if they were identifiable and accountable for their actions and words. I am feeling something of the same thrill of liberation as I finish my first book under a pen-name. I'm not going to tell you my pen-name, obviously, as that would make it useless. I'm using it for a book that might be said to have the equivalent of a "certain impatient gaiety of disposition", not slasher porn or anything. But is that the start of the slippery slope that leads to beating an [oxymoron alert] innocent MP to death, as Hyde does?
There are two reasons for writing this book under are a pen-name.
Firstly, it is not a book that sits well with the books that I write most of the time. It will sell to an entirely different market, and I would prefer to keep the two separate. I don't want people from my main market to come across it, buy it and be disappointed, or annoyed. It is very different, and would - in marketing speak - dilute the brand. That was a bit of a worry, but it was something else that led me to write back to the publisher and say I'd changed my mind about a pen-name (they had suggested it).
But secondly, there are some weird people out there. I had another letter from one. I get a few, as I'm sure most writers do. And then I realised that this new book would be an incredible weirdo-magnet. That was the point at which I decided I didn't want to be discoverable. I will still, no doubt, get the physical letters which people send to the publisher and they pass on, but I won't get the emails or messages through Facebook or twitter. There will still be weirdo reviews, but they won't be linked to my other books in any way, so that's fine.
Already I am feeling the freedom of playing with ideas and words that won't be traced back to me. How far will it go? Will I end up writing Fifty Shades? Will I find another area to venture into, and need a new pen-name, and slowly fragment into multiple public identities? So far, only three people besides my publisher know this new identity. All are close friends, other writers who won't betray it. My fingers are flexing. Hyde is out.
The Story of Maps, published 15 September 2015, Arcturus