At the BL Weekender event, I was having a chat with someone. The conversation was nice and lively; we were talking about how hard it can be to be a new author in an established tie-in field and as the conversation progressed, the inevitable question came up.
‘Did you ever think about using a male pseudonym?’
The answer was honest. Yes. I thought about it quite a lot at the start of my BL writing career. I thought about it probably for all the wrong reasons though.
So after much contemplation and discussing it with a few people, I decided to go with my Actual Name. After all, as one person put it eloquently, ‘you wrote the thing didn’t you?’
I don’t have the luxury of an ambiguous first name which is something of a shame – imagine the fun of turning up to a signing event and confusing the heck out of someone – something that I know the lovely Nik Vincent-Abnett has had happen. But then, if I’d picked something obviously male, would that have precluded me from signing events and things like BLW and BLL?
Initials, I could have used those. I toyed with that idea for a little while and still couldn’t get past the fact that I’d written the story, why shouldn’t I be proud of it?
So Sarah Cawkwell it was… and still is. It’s a truth that it has startled people in the BL fandom to see a female name amongst the others on the bookshelves. I know this because I’ve been in a GW store and heard people commenting on such. It’s hard at those moments not to chime in with ‘and why shouldn’t there be’? Instead, the last time I overheard someone say ‘hang on, this is written by a woman isn’t it?’ the question was answered with ‘yep’. Then the original question-asker bought it (Valkia, as it happens).
Should it matter remotely whether I’m male or female and writing in the Warhammer universes? What do YOU think out there? Should it matter? Of course it shouldn’t is my response. But things I’ve read in assorted dark corners of the Internet suggest that there are people who think otherwise. The face of the hobby is undoubtedly changing; you’re now far more likely to find female customers in GW store as much as you are male ones. Sure, less of them – but they’re still there. Some would-be female BL writers have told me that they feel more confident after I ‘trailblazed’ for them. That in itself is the best reason ever for not having chosen to go down the male pseudonym route. Be proud of what you’ve achieved. Don’t hide from it.
Would you consider going with a male pseudonym in the future?That is generally the other part to the question. The answer to that is ‘do you really think I’d tell you?’