First off, I must make it clear that I have no problem with authors writing under pseudonyms. Pen names can be advantageous in a number of ways, including to help an author maintain a level of privacy, to increase a book’s marketability, or to make a distinction between books by an author who writes in more than one genre, particularly when those genres are quite different.
Something new I did this year got me to thinking, though. I knowingly read a romance by a male author who wrote it under a woman’s name. If there’s any other romance I’ve read before by a man who used a female pen name, I wasn’t aware of it, though I hear the practice is quite common for some men who write romances and cozy mysteries.
Now, there are a number of authors, male and female, behind the collective pseudonym Carolyn Keene for the Nancy Drew books I read as an adolescent, but those aren’t romance novels, of course. Still, at the time when I was all into Nancy Drew books, while I was sure there wasn’t only one “Carolyn Keene” behind all of them, it didn’t cross my mind then that some of the authors might be men.
Granted, I’ve been familiar with the practice of women writing under male names for about as long as I’ve been familiar with the concept of pseudonyms. It’s only the idea of the genders being reversed that is newer to me.
Nevertheless, my biggest thought in all of this is, currently: will it ever become more socially acceptable–and sufficiently marketable–for authors to write under their own gender no matter the genre, even if some of those authors still choose to use pseudonyms for other reasons?
I mean, as visible as I personally make myself behind my own books, I can’t help wondering sometimes how that visibility might affect some readers’ thoughts or assumptions about the books I’ve written with main characters on the covers whose race/ethnicity differs from mine. And I wonder how similar that kind of effect might be if I wrote gritty crime thrillers or something and folks found out that the author behind all of that grit was a woman–a frequently-smiling-and-laughing one at that.
Will there come a time when readers, no matter their gender, will generally be more okay with picking up, say, action-packed espionage novels with political intrigue published under their female authors’ names or tender romantic comedies published under their male authors’ names? (And I don’t mean with their last names accompanied by their first and/or middle initials only, in cases when it’s for the express purpose of keeping the author’s gender ambiguous.)
Will using pseudonyms as a gender cover, more or less, for the sake of acceptability and marketability become a practice of the past?
Note: the sampling of books I have pictured from the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories and The Nancy Drew Files aren’t all by male authors. 🙂