Back in the dawn of time, when I was a kid, the only way to get in touch with an author was to write a letter in care of the publishing house, and hope that it was deemed worthy of being sent along. Or so it seemed to me. I was fond of writing to authors whose work impressed me. I would type a letter on paper, sign it, fold it up and mail it in an envelope with a stamp. The first author who ever wrote back was Alexander Key. I was over the moon when that letter arrived. An author! A writer of books! And he’d spared five minutes of his valuable time communicating with me! I still have that letter, as well as notes from E.L. Konigsburg and Philip Jose Farmer, safely tucked away in a cedar trinket box that I could grab if the house was on fire. I wouldn’t have known any of those folks if they walked up to me in the street, because back then authors didn’t really get out all that much.
These days, it’s different. We have email addresses so readers can get directly in touch with the tap of a finger. We have web sites so people know what we look like right off the bat. We go to festivals and cons, where we mingle with fans. If we want to keep ourselves a little private, we have to invent a persona. New name, different clothing, that sort of thing. Faith Hunter, for example, dresses differently when she’s in her mystery AKA than she does as Faith.
When I go out into the world, people expect me to act..well, piratey. I did write a book about pirates, after all. When it’s appropriate, I do my best to give them what they expect. I wear my pirate hat and clothing, and use the proper words. Not that I mind, of course – I was a pirate way before pirates were cool. But when I finally finish and sell the non-pirate novel I’m working on, I can’t very well go around in breeches and hat to promote it. Changing my clothing isn’t that big a deal, but changing my name scares me to death.
I’m rather fond of my name, and the thrill of seeing it on the cover of a book for the first time rocked my world in ways I can’t even explain. It felt a little like the day I first gazed into my son’s eyes – utter accomplishment and joy in a tiny little package. I will happily buy a new wardrobe. color my hair, change my accent, whatever is necessary to differentiate the new work from the old. But I don’t want to change my name. If the publisher says I must, I’ll do it, of course. Since I don’t want to, though, it’ll probably take me a while to choose something I can live with. Something funky and exotic.
Throw some suggestions at me, y’all. I like to be ready for these things.