My husband thinks I should try writing erotica. For someone whose books have been published by Christian publishing houses, that’s one hell of an authorial reinvention.
I tried to explain to him that the problem isn’t the genre. It’s my aptitude for writing it. Just working out the logistics of two people kissing when I write can be a challenge. Erotica? I’d have body parts flying all over the place. Not to mention the paradigm shift in our personal sex life. Making love with writer’s brain (this goes there, he does this, she does that, oops…that didn’t work), and thinking one of those speech recognition software programs would be useful at the time.
I have given serious thought to introducing erotica in Christian fiction. Rumor has it that there are Christians who are actually having married-to-one-another sex and enjoying it. And, have you read “Song of Solomon” in the Bible lately? Clearly, a study in metaphoric sex: “his abdomen is carved in ivory” and her “orchard” blossoms, and he’s attracted to her “garden”? Then there’s this illustration of the Song of Solomon, which serves to demonstrate some of the inherent problems with literal interpretations.
Even J.K. Rowling is reinventing herself as evidenced by the outing of her as Robert Galbraith, author of The Cuckoo's Calling, a crime novel released in April "praised by critics," according to NBC News. She called the pseudonym a "liberating experience," because of not having to endure the hype or pressure of being always Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling. Not many seemed to mind that she published the Harry Potter series using the gender-neutal J.K. as opposed to her first name, Joanne.
But some think she may have pushed the boundaries of fabrication by claiming to be a married father-of-two and a former undercover police investigator. The author bio on Amazon states, "After several years with the Royal Military Police, Robert Galbraith was attached to the SIB (Special Investigative Branch), the plain-clothes branch of the RMP. He left the military in 2003 and has been working since then in the civilian security industry. The idea for Cormoran Strike grew directly out of his own experiences and those of his military friends who returned to the civilian world."
Does that mean there are boundaries to reinvention? You can assume a false name, but you can't assume a false history related to your new identity? But, if fiction is, as Merriam-Webster defines it, "something invented by our imaginations," are we going to restrict our reinventions? So, people are upset that she wasn't honest about her alias? Seems rather oxymoronic or, at the very least, headache-inducing.
Female writers have hidden themselves under gender neutral or male names for centuries, even as recently as our own with Nora Roberts reinventing herself as J.D. Robb. Mary Ann Evans used George Eliot so that her work would be taken more seriously, Amantine Lucile Dupin published as George Sand, and even Harper Lee dropped her first name, Nellie. The author of The Outsiders, Susan Eliose Hinton, preceded Rowling as an author using only her initials, S.E. Publisher's Weekly wrote an article about male writers using women's or gender-neutral names when writing romance.
It seems writers reinvent themselves because of reader perceptions, pre-conceived notions of males writing erotica or females writing grisly crime and detective stories. Or, as in centuries ago, readers not embracing women as writers. Sometimes its self-preseveration with publishing houses or even careers. When I taught high school, I don't think parent conferences would have gone well if my name had been on the cover of Fifty Shades of Gray. Then again, if it had been, I wouldn't need to be sitting in parent conferences...
I wonder, though, what our perceptions as writers are of readers that cause us to want to reinvent ourselves.
What happens when I decide to write outside of the genre that's defined me for the five novels I've already written?
I'll let you know.
In the meantime, do you feel duped by author pseudonyms? Would you follow a favorite author into any genre?
Christa Allan's newest novel, under her very own real name, A Test of Faith, will release in March of 2014. You can track her down atwww.christaallan.com, Facebook, and Twitter. She and her husband recently moved to New Orleans with their three neurotic cats. You can find her other novels here.