The Covert, Clandestine, Top-Secret, and Undercover World of Novelists

Of course you understand why spies and undercover officers must disguise their names—and their appearances—to protect their true identities as they infiltrate an “enemy camp.” During these covert operations, the disclosure of one’s true identity can jeopardize the mission and even cost the agent his or her life.

But novelists? What’s with all the secrecy? Why does hypothetical “budding novelist” Jane Wethersford, for example, cloak her legal name with a blander Jane Doe moniker as she promotes her work on the Worldwide Web? Why did Sylvester Hart dispense with his dashing real birth name for the cutesy TomLuv icon online?

You probably know the story of J.D. Robb, otherwise known as Nora Roberts, whose pseudonym helped her maintain separate author hemispheres, one as romance writer, the other as a mystery writer. Stephen King went as Richard Bachman to work with a second publisher… and so on.

Pseudonyms, nom de plumes, phony user names.

Aspiring and professional authors I’ve spoken to give various reasons for the secret identities they maintain. Some says it’s a matter of privacy and security; others point to writing and competing in unfriendly gender genres, where “androgynymity” – did I just invent a new scientific term? – improves their chances. Perhaps some authors fear that the work they publish now will be held against them when they become a more accomplished novelist ten years out.

And then there’s me.
The sci-fi/horror writer.
I’m not a politician who has to worry about embarrassing slips of the tongue. I’m not a frightened yuppie afraid of someone hunting me down.
I am what you see, using my birth name as given. In this unsheathed form, I’ll shrug off the bad publicity hurled at me and at my true name. If I were competing for a Nobel Peace Prize I’d care. I’m a fucking sci-fi/horror novelist.

Another insider observation I wanted to share before bidding you all adieu: There’s this practice of multiple identities within a site, as well as across different sites, leaving the real Dean Lombardo wondering if Jane Doe is Jane Somebody from the author site I used to frequent. Wondering if Thomas Hart is TomLuv … Eventually your mind starts playing tricks on you. Is the balding mystery writer from the mystery forum the same person as that comely French lady avatar who’d blogged about how great the mystery writer’s self-published novel was?
Don’t care.
I’m a sci-fi/horror writer.
Undisguised (that photo … it’s REALLY me).
Here I am.
Turn the page.

To visit Dean’s website, go here.


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