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Confession

13 Jul

Reblogged from Penworthy Press

Most people who know me also know I am a writer.

They’d have to be oblivious not to know. It’s an almost constant ingredient in my conversation. (Yes, I am that boring.) I love writing. It’s “the hardest work I’ll ever love”, and I dare say this love of words and stories is a calling.

It has given me work and has enabled me to help and encourage other writers, whether they be students writing only to finish assignments or aspiring writers seeking to be published. It has frustrated me, too, and the arduous process has taught me to let go of perfectionism and to persevere.

Perfectionism is rooted in fear and pride, and it prevents progress. It is one reason I chose a pseudonym: If people didn’t like my writing, I could hide behind another name.

However, there were other equal or greater reasons for choosing a pen name many years ago:
1) minor stalking from a few creepy guys when I was younger and better looking (alas, alack, time has taken its toll);
2) identity theft (a close family member was impinged upon by someone with a criminal history who married into the family, and then my information became linked to that person);
3) my real name doesn’t fit well with the types of stories I tell (“Elizabeth Easter” sounds like a romance writer, and while there are sometimes love stories in my work, I mostly write fantasy and science fiction); and
3) a desire to keep my editing work separate from my writing, and some writers — offended by the editing of their manuscripts — have called into question my abilities. I didn’t praise them as they wished, I made suggestions they viewed as insults, or perhaps I told them large portions would have to be rewritten. Therefore, rather than examine their own work, they attacked mine.

It is this behavior, among others, that led me to resigning from a publishing house and to shuttering the freelance editing business. Online creepers and offended authors weighed my spirit, and outweighed the many times writers had been encouraged and grateful for my help. I needed to step back and gain a clearer perspective.

An aside: If we live our lives offended, and if we make decisions out of that offense or we expect other people to tiptoe around us lest they offend, we are shackling not only ourselves but everyone else.

I have been edited by too-lenient teachers and by snarky, overbearing fellow writers. Good editing is a delicate balance: telling the absolute truth while still being kind and encouraging. As an editor, I strive for that balance, but have not always succeeded. As a writer, I also struggle to receive less-than-kind feedback and apply it objectively.

Another struggle: Should I reveal my true identity?

Another reason for choosing a pseudonym — and a masculine one, at that — was to practice writing male characters. Despite the push of political correctness, science confirms that men and women think differently. No secret there. However, after much experience editing romance novels, I became weary of the heroes mirroring the heroines: men who spoke, emoted, and behaved like women.

Also, a male reader’s feedback on an early, rough, uncompleted draft of my novel revealed that my male characters spoke and thought too much like the female characters. The feedback was not delivered with any thought to my feelings, but it was honest, and I respected that.

I needed practice. I chose a masculine pen name, started a blog, wrote a short story and a science fiction serial, and joined social media. Although I am a heterosexual woman, I found it comfortable, easy, and freeing to write as a man. As him, I could say things that Elizabeth couldn’t, and I was heard. The people with whom I engaged in conversation online where mostly men, and we could express ourselves without the clutter of delicate emotions. There was respect and honesty that wasn’t commonly present in conversations with fellow female writers. And, until I revealed the truth to a select few, people seemed to accept without question that “Keanan Brand” was a man.

The advertising, spam, and inappropriate invitations have accentuated that notion. There are spam-bots and actual women who have sent indecent proposals. Oy vey.

Yet another reason for choosing a pseudonym: to test my storytelling abilities without the impediment of my soft-sounding real name. The results have been mixed. Female readers have not liked the battle scenes, the violence, and the lack of erotic scenes, while the guys have wanted even more action and less poetry. However, some men have responded well to the emotional elements — not only the love stories, but also the scene where one character contemplates suicide, and there are strong friendships and family bonds — and some women have said they liked the action and thought the story was suspenseful. They did not seem influenced by the author name, but male readers seemed more inclined to my story when it came appended with a masculine pen name.

The truth will out.

There have been times when Elizabeth crept to the forefront of Keanan’s posts, and a couple times Elizabeth signed Keanan’s e-mail.

Writers whom I respect and like, and what started as a casual crossing of paths online have, in many cases, turned into friendships. Those friends deserve the truth — though I will understand if they do not remain friends after having been deceived by my online persona.

Regardless of the consequences, the time has come to confess the truth. Keanan Brand is really a woman, and Elizabeth Easter wrote this book:

Dragon's_Rook_Cover_Keanan_Brand_Susan_Troutt

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8 responses to “Confession

  1. Johne Cook

    July 13, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    I was pleased to discover your identity when you came on-board with Ray Gun Revival but was frankly astonished when you shared your secret. Some detective I am.

    You’d think I’d have picked something up in the writing but the picture I had in my head was a guy who was in touch enough with his emotional side that the hard-edged action scenes still had some emotional resonance. Nothing I had read before that betrayed the truth. I just thought you were a guy who could write rich characters. So, yeah, I was briefly gobsmacked but I realized that the person I had grown to admire was still there and that the qualities of that person were still intact – your actual gender made no difference to me. The smart, tough-minded, creative, principled person – my friend – was still in there, had always been there.

    (I was thinking about this – it reminds me of Ready Player One when Parzival met Aech in person and found that his friend was a black woman and discovered that his friend was still there underneath. RPO was published in fall 2011 – I discovered your identity on Valentines Day 2012. Your brother gave you advice and was dead-spot on: “I believe that they may be shocked, but also impressed by your “non-feminine” writing style. I don’t believe it will be a big deal.” It wasn’t a big deal then and it isn’t a big deal now.)

    And that’s how I feel now. My friend is still my friend, has always been my friend. Whether you answer to ‘Keanan’ or ‘Beth,’ you’re my friend and that’s all that matters to me.

     
  2. Keanan

    July 13, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    See, it’s stuff like this that brings me to tears.

    Stop that! 😉

    I have been humbled and encouraged and healed and made grateful by you and Lee and many others I’ve encountered along the way.

    Thank you for the opportunities and for the friendship. May it live long and prosper.

     
  3. Loriendil

    July 13, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    *melts into a puddle* Well, now I can stop worrying that I have to remember to called Keanan “he.” *whew*

    I was thrilled and a bit awed by this writer that came aboard Ray Gun Revival with the serial novel Thieves’ Honor. Thrilled because the work was so good, and a bit awed because here was a guy who knew how to write and, except for an odd oops in our style guide now and then, was so professional his work didn’t even need copy editing. Then he became an Overseer for us, helping with behind the scenes stuff. Great guy! Then I find he’s a she.

    I rather felt like Rod Walker in Tunnel in the Sky when he finds out Jack is a girl. Johne stole my word: I was gobsmacked. Totally and utterly. After picking my jaw up off the floor, I laughed. It was delicious! Another dame who writes SF! I always knew there was something about him, er her, that I liked!

    All that to say, I have been and always will be your friend, Keanan, er Beth, er whoever you are. 🙂

     
  4. Keanan

    July 13, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    The pleasure is all mine, Lee. 🙂 I am blessed beyond words to know you.

    I laughed when Johne told me something to the effect of “Your proofing is so clean that if she weren’t already married, Lee would marry you.” I knew then that we were kindred.

    I apologize for the burden of the secret — and for the style guide errors. (Guide? What guide? That’s like the Pirate’s Code, right? 😉 )

     
  5. Loriendil

    July 13, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Heeeee! Yes, I did tell him that!

    And style guide – yes, we had one. LOL
    http://www.raygunrevival.com/guidelines/

     
  6. Peter R Stone

    July 14, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    Well, I have to say I would not have guessed, but in reading your posts over the years, it does make more sense now that I know. Thanks for letting us know, though in all truth, makes no difference to me, you’re one amazing writer, and glad to call you my friend 🙂

     
    • Keanan

      July 14, 2015 at 9:08 pm

      Thank you, Peter! 🙂 I’m grateful for the friendship. And for the kind words, ’cause you’re an excellent writer the world needs to meet, and I wish you much success.

       

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