14 July 2013

JK Rowling Outed As A Father And Ex-Military Soldier

For popular authors, writing under a pseudonym is freeing. 

This was what Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was doing when in April, she released a crime-fiction novel called The Cuckoo’s Calling. Up until Saturday, it was assumed that the name on the book, Robert Galbraith, was the author –even though on the publisher’s website, the biography of the Galbraith says he married father of two with an army background and experience in civilian security. It also acknowledged that Robert Galbraith was a pen name. 

Still, the book got rave reviews back in April, with many saying that this tale was too good to be a debut novel by some retired military person. Was then just luck, as sometimes happens in the publishing industry, where a debut novel gets such high praise? Perhaps, but I don’t think anyone thought it could be bestselling author Rowling, who released her first non-Harry Potter book, The Casual Vacancy, last September to tepid reviews, even though it sold very well (and will be turned into a limited series for the BBC).

She’s not the first author to write under a pseudonym. Man Booker Prize winner John Banville publishes detective novels under the name Benjamin Black, while Interview With A Vampire novelist Anne Rice released a series of erotic novels under the name of A.N. Roquelaure. And long-time Stephen King fans have known that the author published four novels under the name Richard Bachman, while prolific romance author Nora Roberts created J.D. Robb as way to release her futuristic crime series (though she’s also uses the names Jill March and Sarah Hardesty).  Fantasy author Robert Jordan, who created the Wheel in Time series was really named James Oliver Rigney, Jr., but he also used Reagan O'Neal for historical fiction as well as Jackson O'Reilly for westerns. 

Why novelist do this is for varying reasons. Mostly, though, it’s because they want to shift genres and thus leave the bestselling name behind so the newest book can stand on its own. Still, this sometimes angers fans, but in my years working in the retail book business, I've also seen fans turn away from authors like Rowling and, in particular, Anne Rice, because they don't want their favorite author doing other stuff. Too many of Rice's fans have told me they avoid her work, unless it's a vampire tale. When Rowling released The Casual Vacancy, many were upset that she took such a one-eighty turn, and pondered why she just didn't give the fans what they want: more tales set at Hogwarts. But, of course, for writers of books, it's never what the fan wants, but what the writer has stuck in their heads and that must be excised. To misunderstand this equation is to misunderstand why people write at all.

Meanwhile others, like acclaimed author Joe Hill, used a shortened version of his middle name to hide that he was in fact the son of Stephen King.  But the point was with Hill and now Rowling, they wanted their books to stand separate from other works; Hill because he was writing in the same genre as his dad (and story goes that the publisher of his first collection of stories, 20th Century Ghost, was unaware of Hill’s lineage until about three months before that book collection was released) and Rowling from her Harry Potter franchise.

But her ruse lasted only three months –and in this day and age of social media, maybe a surprise it lasted this long (it seems, as well, that most in the industry were kept in the dark -Kate Mills, a fiction editor at Orion Books, tweeted that she had turned down the novel. "So, I can now say that I turned down JK Rowling. I did read and say no to Cuckoo's Calling. Anyone else going to confess?"). “I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer, because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience,” she said in a statement. “It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

With the news that Rowling was indeed Galbraith, the book shot up quickly to number 1 on Amazon (and they were already out of stock on the title, giving it’s availability a nebulous 10 to 14 day wait. And over at BarnesandNoble.com, they’re also already out of stock on it) and a lot of brick and mortar stores were caught off guard, having only a handful of the books in stock (the three B&N’s close by my house still seem to indicate they have copies on hand). Depending on the print run of the first edition, though, the book should become a collector item much like the first UK and US editions of Rowling’s Harry Potter book has. If B&N stores are out, the next step is to find independents that may have acquired the book, but seeing that the novel was supposedly a debut from an unknown author, they may have passed it up all together or bought limited quantities.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for share........