With the explosion of eBook publishing and social media promotions, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of authors using pseudonyms. In decades past, only those writing extremely intimate, or socially sensitive books, used pen names. Of course there were always popular authors who used pseudonyms, as a second or third author name, in order to write in a different genre. Some authors even chose pen names generated to disguise their gender, but the majority of authors wrote under their given names, or variations of it.
So why is it suddenly fashionable for so many new authors to use a pen name? Well, in the ‘connected’ world it’s far less about the ‘fashion’ than you’d think.
Though women no longer have to fear becoming a social pariah for delving into the ‘manly’ world of authorship, they do have to contend with theupsurge in cyber-stalking. In the U.S., in 2010 VAWOR (http://www.vaw.umn.edu/documents/inbriefs/stalking/stalking.html) reported that one in twelve women and one in forty-five men will be stalked in their lifetime. One in four of those victims report some form of cyber-stalking.
Those are some serious numbers! As authors we open our online profiles to the public. Most authors do so because they want to be accessible to the readers, and the potential readers, but doing so also places them at risk.
In our online world, we leave little puzzle pieces of our lives everywhere we go. If someone is obsessive enough to stalk us, they’ll certainly take the time to collect those pieces and put them together. Just check into the stories of Author Jayne Hitchcock,(http://www.sans.org/reading_room/whitepapers/threats/cyber-stalking-privacy-intrusion-its-scariest_457), or Blogger Kathy Sierra, (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/29/AR2007042901555.html),if you’d like to know more. The idea of people uncovering and posting a writer’s home address, and threatening them and/or their familystill gives me panic attacks!
While most readers and fans are just that, there is always the potential that one slightly unhinged person could built an obsession around an author. The risk seems to increase for writers of romance and erotica.
Personally, I hadn’t had a Facebook profile and fan page for a full two weeks before I had my first crude and aggressive fan, sending me sexual propositions in private messages! A simple block and delete works well, but only if I don’t have any of those loose puzzle pieces floating around the internet.
As an erotica author, I have no trouble with flirty comments, or open and honest discussions about sex. I’m certainly not immune to the pleasure of a good ‘dirty’ joke, either. Choosing to write erotica, however, does not mean I’m willing to have cyber-sex with people who send me private messages.
I’d assumed the incident was just a one in a million anomaly, but three more messages followed within days, all with full, longstanding profiles, (and often wives/husbands and/or children and/or family openly listed). One of those people wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, and had to be deleted and blocked. The same person resurfaced hours later with a brand new profile, (there were ‘tells’ in his writing style that gave him away), making me extremely grateful for my chosen pen name.
Yes, I use a pseudonym. I’ve picked one with deep personal meaning to me, and I’m thankful that it allows me to remain accessible to readers and fans. I had other reasonsfor using a pen name, but they’ve taken a back seat to the cyber-stalking issue at the moment. Let me just assure the readers that when they see posts, comments or blogs by Candi Delshamagus, they are getting the words of me, the writer behind the name, in my own voice.
I predict that pen names will soon become the norm in the literary community. Hopefully readers will understand and respect the necessity of caution, in a potentially dangerous online world.