Saturday, June 8, 2013

To Tell Or Not To Tell...

A few months ago I started a new day job. It’s a great change for me, and I’ve been excited to meet new people and try something different. But being someplace new has roused an age old debate that I have with myself constantly. Do I tell people about my writing or not?

From the very beginning of my writing I’ve wanted to protect some of my privacy, which I’ve done with a pen name, though I spend so much time being Willa I can’t remember the differences between us sometimes. I took on a pen name to begin with because I was working for a very conservative company and I thought having erotic romance novels under my name would hurt my chances of ever being promoted and might even endanger my job. While the new company I’m working for is a little less conservative, that fear remains.

I hate that I can’t be open about who I am. I want to scream that people should be more open minded, more understanding, more evolved then to assume that I do what I write (which believe me I don’t, sometimes I wish I lived the exciting life my heroines do, but I’m far from it). But even as I curse that people should understand the difference between fact and fiction, I remember all the times people have proven they can’t separate the two.
I can recall, with crystal clarity, when Judy Mays was outed. I watched the videos they created about her with such horror. The things people were saying about her, wondering about her, made me sick. They made her out to be such a deviant. I’ve heard other stories of people losing their jobs or being ostracized from their families for writing erotic romance. Though I don’t think those things would happen to me, it always remains in the back on my mind. For these reasons I’m always very weary to tell people about my writing. Publishing requires so much risk as it is, to put yourself out there, to be judged and rejected (either by publishers or by readers), I’ve always thought it was easier to keep my writing to only a select few friends and family.

But that’s easier said than done. When I first took on a pen name I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t realize exactly how much time and effort my writing would take, and how much a part of my life writing would become. I thought I could keep these two worlds completely separate and no one would be the wiser. Now, my writing is such a huge part of my life, it feels weird not to tell the people I work with about it. I feels a little like if I were married and never mentioned my husband, or if I had kids and I didn’t have a single picture of them.
But there’s no way to mention my writing, without getting the age old question. What do you write? How exactly do you have a conversation with your boss about how you wrote a ménage BDSM scene over the weekend?

I even have trouble telling my family. Only my mother and father know my pen name. Though several others have asked for it, I have never divulged that information. Not because I think they wouldn’t be supportive, but because I don’t want to deal with the questions and possible odd looks when they realize what’s really going on in my head when I’m scribbling down notes while they talk to me.

So once again, I end up back in this debate. Do I tell people about my writing or keep it to myself? Time will only tell with this new job, and like the previous I’ll probably tell people as it makes sense (I told a friend at my previous job after I found a whole bunch of Maya Banks books on her ereader, no way she’d look down on me when she’s reading all the same stuff :D) But I’m curious, what do you all think? Do you tell people what you read or write? Have you ever gotten any backlash? Do you think I should bite the bullet and own up to my true self?


Tina Donahue said...

I never talk about my writing with those I work with. To my surprise, some of my co-workers found out and told me they'd read/enjoyed my novels. Huge relief. However, I still keep my writing separated from my regular job. If I want to talk books/writing, I have many author friends. Because they also love books, they're easier to talk to than co-workers or the general public. I've also found that no matter how much you try to keep out of the fray, someone is always going to find fault with what you do. Frankly, I think those kind of people are jealous. If they weren't, why would they be going to such lengths to make your life miserable?

Patricia Bates said...

I've had the negative experiences with family and friends never co-workers.
Well some of my family knows what I do write under my pen name and I wish they didn't lol.
At work, I'm open that I write romance novels but what I write is not always revealed. Some assume what you write is what you do and I'm not really up for the debates.

Fiona McGier said...

Since one of my jobs is subbing in high schools, some of my contacts, fellow teachers, etc. know I write, but not under what name or what genre other than "romance". And I certainly tell students only that I'm published, but that my pen name is my business.

At my retail job, fellow salespeople have bought and enjoyed my books. I guess it all depends on your environment. I still find it immensely irritating that no one expects Stephen King to be killing innocents, or the author of Silence of the Lambs to be dining on warm brains, but sex is still so taboo that everyone assumes you must be having much more than them, and much hotter sex than them, in order to write what you do.

Of course, for SOME of us that's true! (giggle)

Kelli Scott said...

My co-workers know I write, because I have a non-erotic career under my real name. There is some speculation about me having an erotic career, which I neither confirm nor deny. I get a little kick out of the rumors.