I thought I’d pull y’all in on a running argument I’ve been having with my writer-buddies. Spoiler: I’m finding precious few to take my side.
Here’s the hypothetical: Let’s say successful thriller writer George Schwartz decides to write a historical romance novel through traditional publishing outlets. To keep the marketing department happy, and to avoid confusing his existing audience, George decides to write under the pseudonym, Amanda Thomas. (Apologies if there is a real Amanda Thomas in the romance space. I couldn’t find her in my 30-second Amazon search.)
Just to get it out of the way, I believe that honesty is king. Lying to anyone about anything is wrong. Hard stop.
Here’s my argument:
Since George is writing FICTION under a PSEUDONYM, I don’t see anything wrong with him creating a fabulous, seductive, relevant bio for Amanda Thomas’. She led a hardscrabble life in the Midwest, raising her three younger siblings because Mom and Dad disappeared in a twister. As she worked her way toward a management position in some unnamed factory, she never took her eye off her real goal of becoming a writer. This FIRST NOVEL is the culmination of her life’s dream. She’s only thirty now, with nothing but future ahead of her.
Her cover photo would be gorgeous, that of a model who has signed a scary non-disclosure agreement. Amanda flat-out does not do interviews.
Okay, you get where I am going with this.
One of my best friends in the writing world, a very successful author, was horrified at this possibility. What if the readers found out? They would feel betrayed, and no one would ever buy another Amanda Thomas novel. And when they found out that George Schwartz was the purveyor of the betrayal, they’d never buy another of his books either.
But where’s the betrayal? Where’s the lie?
Amanda Thomas is NOT REAL, and her book is FICTION. There’s no analogy James Frey and A Million Little Pieces because his reprehensible action was to misrepresent a made-up story as nonfiction. Amanda’s book is a novel–no one expects a word of it to be true.
If there’s a lie, it’s in the fact of the pseudonym.
To me, to object to a fictional bio for a pseudonym is to object to a pseudonym itself. The only honest pseudonym in this case would be “Amanda Thomas, who is really George Schwartz.” We don’t expect that, so why, if it’s okay to misrepresent the fact of authorship, is it not okay to give the fake author a fake background?
What say you, TKZ family? Is it wrong to misrepresent a pseudonymous writer as a real person? Should readers know that the name on the cover is not the writer’s real name? Where are the lines that shouldn’t be crossed?