Mickey J. Corrigan lives in South Florida. Her novellas and novels have been released by publishers in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. Poetry chapbooks include The Art of Bars (Finishing Line Press, 2016) and Days' End (Main Street Rag, 2017). Project XX, a crime novel, was released in September by Salt Publishing in the UK.
Author website: www.mickeyjcorrigan.com
Book website: http://projectxxbook.com/
A few months ago, Pen Center USA withdrew a book shortlisted for this year's Young Adult novel award. Stealing Indians tells the story of four teenage Indians in the 1950s, and was well received. However, the author has been accused of faking his Native American heritage. He insists he is Native Alaskan/Native American, but states he can no longer defend himself against social media. He blames the weaponization of the internet for ruining his reputation.
In 2015, a poem selected for the prestigious Best American Poetry annual collection was written under a Chinese pseudonym. The author, a middle-aged white man, explained that his poem had been rejected 40 times until he changed the author's name to Yi-Ten Chou. The New Yorker called this "Oriental profiteering."
Lately I've read quite a few accounts like these. Posing has become one method for struggling writers to capture the attention of a major publisher and, hopefully, an audience. However, pen names have been in use from the earliest days of fiction writing. Women typically adopted a nom de plume in order to sound male or gender neutral. For too long, this was the only way for a woman to get published—or find readers.
Women still change their names for publishing purposes. I selected a gender neutral pen name soon after I began publishing fiction. Why? To widen the potential audience. Research indicates that men prefer to read books written by men. Women do most of the book buying, but as writers we want to include as many readers as possible in our audience. Also, it's tough to find a publisher. If the author's name is female, this can automatically relegate her books to the "women's fiction" category.
In the not so distant past, pen names were used to disguise a Jewish heritage. Or non-white nationality. It was easier to get published if your name made you sound like a middle-aged, middle class white guy. Now middle-aged, middle class white men are using pen names.
I can see all sides of this issue. It's bad form to pose, and lying doesn't cut it. However, I can empathize with a creative person who creates a persona he or she believes will best serve the work. As struggling artists, we can feel like we would do anything to get a good publishing contract and an appreciative audience.
Well, almost anything.
In 2012, a deranged grad student dressed as the Joker shot and killed dozens of movie goers at a Batman film opening in Colorado. Gun violence is so out of control in America that it has become a cruel joke.
Unlike most of Mickey Corrigan's novels, Project XX made itself known to her at that time, demanding to be written. Usually she researches, prepares, then writes. In this case, she wrote first, then did the research on gun violence, female violent crime, and school/mass shootings.
Males are almost always the perpetrators of mass shootings. But females are fully capable of shocking acts of violence and, in the US, military-style weapons are as easy to access as a new hairstyle.
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