Guest Author: Deborah Cooke & Giveaway!

I have a fabulous guest today, an incredibly talented, New York Times bestselling author who writes across genres and under two different names.  I’ll turn the blog over to her, and let her tell us what it’s like living with an alter ego!

Lessons from My Alter Ego

By Deborah Cooke

Also writing as Claire Delacroix

Once upon a time, I sold my first book – a medieval romance called THE ROMANCE OF THE ROSE – and my editor suggested that I take a pseudonym. I hadn’t really thought much about that strategy at the time, but it didn’t sound as if it were optional. And in way, it sounded like fun to have an alter ego. I suggested some French names – not only did they fit the book, which was set partly in medieval France, but I’ve always thought it would be wonderful to have a French name. My editor rearranged the choices and came up with Claire Delacroix. Presto – I had an alter ego with a glorious French name!

Truth be told, I still didn’t think about it much. I never imagined that I would still be using that pseudonym almost twenty years later, much less that I would come to rely upon “Claire” for so many things. Here’s just a partial list of the things she’s taught me:

• How to be an active self-promoter

I am one of those writers who would be perfectly content to just hide in my spare bedroom and write book after book after book. Unfortunately, publishing is geared for authors to self-promote their books – which means leaving the tranquility of that office for the big wide world, chatting up strangers, teaching workshops and being a confident public persona. Yikes! What’s an introvert to do?

It started out innocently enough. I played a game with myself that the fabulous successful Claire Delacroix was going to do that booksigning (teach that workshop, talk to those readers) and that I would just watch. The amazing thing was that I had fun with it. Once I got over my initial terror of promoting my books and myself, I started to enjoy it. Over time, Claire just kicked my butt into that first five minutes, and I took over from there. Now I do it without her.

• How to look the part

People have expectations of what successful authors should look like. They also have expectations of what successful romance authors should look like. Some really do expect Barbara Cartland to swan in, wearing a negligee, fake eyelashes and carrying a small frilly dog. In real life, I don’t match any of these expectations. I look like a house renovator, or a gardener, a student or (maybe) an artist, probably because I am all of those things. I needed a better look and Claire knew what it was.

Again, it started simply. I’d see a pair of red shoes and think “I’d never wear those gorgeous shoes, but Claire would.” So, I’d buy them and wear them to a booksigning, where Claire would fulfil everyone’s ideas of what kind of shoes a romance author should have. Soon Claire had half my closet claimed (my poor husband lost out to TWO female wardrobes!) and had jammed the racks with bright silk suits, frilly skirts, beaded evening jackets and elegant cocktail dresses. It was exciting to pack for conference and take all these clothes for Claire to have her moments.

You know what happened next. Just like a naughty sister, I started to steal her clothes. After all, I knew they would fit.

• How to get great covers

I’m not really sure how Claire does this, but she does it virtually every time. Claire has always had great mojo with cover art – it seems that fabulous covers spontaneously manifest when Claire delivers a book. I think it’s because Claire and I love cover art so much and think about it a lot, and that enthusiasm does seem to influence people.

Even though I don’t know how she does it exactly, her touch seems to have transferred to me and my own books. That’s all that matters!

• How to reinvent yourself

Any publishing career of almost twenty years duration will have had its ups and downs. Claire has had some glorious successes and she has also been affected by market changes. But Claire always has another idea up her (fuschia silk) sleeve and she’s always ready to try something new. She’s inventive and daring and isn’t interested when people say she can’t write something because she hasn’t written in that subgenre before. Claire has published medieval romances, paranormal medieval romances, time travel romances, contemporary romances (some people called them mainstream with romantic elements), future set Apocalyptic romance and fantasy with romantic elements. She’s written novellas and books and short stories, and she’s always got another story to tell. The wonderful thing, though, is that there is commonality across her books and that her readers follow her across subgenres. That’s a neat trick. (I’m not sure she even knows how she does that, though.)

Claire doesn’t give up, and that persistence is a very handy trait for an author.

• How to move with the times

The thing with Claire is that I never expected her to hang around for so long. I always thought that eventually I’d write under my own name. Now that I do, I keep expecting Claire to disappear into the history of my life. But Claire doesn’t do disappearing acts – it’s becoming clear to me that she’s not going anywhere. This is more than reinventing herself – this is about adapting to changes in the marketplace. When I teach workshops, I always say that change is the only constant in publishing, and Claire is really good at dealing with change. She’s sure-footed and (ahem) smart and she seems to have a knack for figuring out just how to strategically position herself and her work.

For example, Claire is the part of me who is exploring digital self-publishing, that powerful new trend in the market. This year, she’s on a mission to get a lot of the reverted Claire Delacroix backlist available in digital editions. The most recent digital release is THE BEAUTY BRIDE, book #1 of my Jewels of Kinfairlie series. The next two books in that trilogy (THE RED ROSE BRIDE and THE SNOW WHITE BRIDE) will be digitally released in August and September, respectively.

And you know, I’m glad Claire is sticking around. I’ve gotten used to her and I’m pretty sure she still has some more things to teach me. I’ve taught her a few things, too, but that will have to be saved for another post!

Do you write under a pseudonym? Do you like it, or would you rather write under your own name? As a reader, do you follow favourite authors across subgenres, or do you tend to read only under one of their author brands?

What’s your answer to Deb/Claire’s question?  Are you happy to follow authors across subgenres?  One person who comments will win a signed, print copy of The Beauty Bride!


54 thoughts on “Guest Author: Deborah Cooke & Giveaway!”

  1. As a reader, do you follow favourite authors across subgenres, or do you tend to read only under one of their author brands?

    = Yep, of course, once favorite author, I’ll always read all her books… Dun care the genre…

  2. Do you write under a pseudonym? Do you like it, or would you rather write under your own name?
    *i rather write under my own name ^^

    As a reader, do you follow favourite authors across subgenres, or do you tend to read only under one of their author brands? i will follow favourite author across subgenres

    eli yanti

  3. depends on the author.. Jayne ann krentz for example i follow under all her umpteen names..nora roberts has jd robb for her futuristic. i like knowing that there is something different eg, historicals, future, contemporary.. and that gives me the option of what ones i would follow or not follow.. most of the time if i like the author under one type, ill try them under the different titles

  4. I will follow authors across genres and regardless of their pseudonym, as long as I can figure out what their pseudonyms are!

    I also write romance under a pseudonym and other stuff under my real name!

  5. Hi Claire/Deborah and Vanessa!

    I love how you took over hubby’s closet with two female wardrobes!
    That’s a wonderful idea, you can dress yourself depending on your mood….Deb or Claire. 🙂

    Wow, what a talented lady you are……. a house renovator, a gardener, a student, an artist, plus a writer to boot! You must never be bored, good for you! I’m just happy when my simple dinners don’t burn! LOL!!

    I really enjoyed reading ‘The Jewels of Kinfairlie’ series. The stories of Madeline, Vivienne and Alexander were wonderful! I need to get my hands on some of your books I haven’t read, which by the way, aren’t many! LOL!! Read about all of them. =) Great interview, thank you for sharing. 🙂

    I will follow an author if I like her writing, plus it does matter to me on their genres.
    For example, I like Gayle Callen, so I will read her Julie Latham books which are her medieval romance books. Just the same for Kalen Hughes writing as Isobel Carr, I read both.
    I like Jenna Petersen’ historicals , but can’t seem to read her Jess Michaels books. They’re good, but not my cup of tea.
    Same goes for Amamnda Quick, like her books just not as JAK or JC.
    Not a thing wrong with those books, I just tend to follow historical romance.

    Have a wonderful day ladies!

  6. Me personally? If i like a writters style or subjects of writting then i will follow them under any assumed name they use. I think that using a different name when you write adds an element of mystery and actually keeps some poeple, like me, coming back for the next edition just to see if they can solve the mystery of the author. As for across subgenres, sure i’ll follow the author. Some authors are like a drug. You just simply can’t get enough of them.

  7. Do you write under a pseudonym? Do you like it, or would you rather write under your own name?

    I’d pick a fun pseudonym. Why not create a fun alter-ego. In this digital age, it would let me keep my own stuff more private and distinct.

    As a reader, do you follow favourite authors across subgenres, or do you tend to read only under one of their author brands?
    I am a bookaholic. I follow my favorite authors (almost) anywhere. I won’t go vampire though, so other than that, yep.

  8. Hi, great article as always, I of course do and have and will always follow an author across genres. I follow Deb/Claire and although the writing takes on a familiar feel shall we say, it’s a very different voice too between her historicals, her paranormal, her YA and her urban fantasy. It’s her storytelling that always wins me hands down, her attention to detail in her medieval castles, to her apocalyptic future in her fallen angels series and her of course dragons in her paranormal series. Her stories just floor me.

  9. Vanessa, thanks for having Deborah/Claire with you today! I do read across genres but my favorite will always be historical romance. I do get a kick out of reading time-travel books where the characters are sent from current time back into a historical time period or like Sandra Hill’s Viking books the reverse. I love reading how they deal with the change of expectations and “politically correct” attitudes of a different time period.

    Claire, since your books were one of the first I read that was a historical romance I am thrilled that you are epublishing some of the books I missed and have been hoping to have the opportunity to find. Since you are re-releasing some of your favorites are you also considering writing a new historical romance?

    I totally understand the conflicting wardrobes! My husband kids me that in the morning when I’m dressed for work at a financial firm I look like Lois Lane but when he get home I’m dressed in my old cut-off jeans and a teeshirt! My dual personality started when my boys were toddlers and I have gone from a business environment to being a stay-at-home Mom for 2 years. When I went back to work playing in the sandbox with the boys and going to work definately demanded two seperate set of clothes! Once the boys were grown up and out on their own he moved my work clothes into one of their closets so he had more than 4 inches to fit his in!

  10. I cross genres — you can run but you cannot hide– once I finally realized that some of my favorite authors were writing other stuff [ok I did start reading before the internet began and info was sometimes hard to find!! ]

  11. Hi everyone –

    Wow. Thanks for all the comments!

    It looks like lots of you follow authors across subgenres – I admit that I’m that kind of a reader. I’ve followed Jayne Ann Krentz, for example, all over the place. And it is funny how the same author in a different setting might not work for you. I’ve had that happen to me, as well, and so the author branding turns out to be very helpful in terms of anticipating whether I’ll like the book or not.

    Margaret – websites are a great source of info on the alter-egos of authors!

    And thanks Delila – glad to hear that you’ve enjoyed so many of my books. (I knew that someone would find it funny that my husband lost closet space to TWO women! And my DH is a Mr. GQ, so it was a hard battle to lose for him.)

    LOL Kris – I think we’re two of a kind. I loved that Claire had such a flamboyant name (while mine is pretty plain) and I really don’t do vampires. I did one short story featuring a vampire, “Coven of Mercy”, for an anthology, but it really doesn’t deliver to the same set of expectations as most vampire romance. OTOH, I loved Anne Rice’s books in the 80’s.

    Hi Debbie! (big wave!)

    HI Jeanne – the really fun thing about republishing my Claire Delacroix books is connecting with readers who read the stories way back when. It’s awesome! I don’t own all my backlist, so Harlequin is republishing some of the titles they own – the Sayerne trilogy is being re-released this summer, for example – and Random House has the original Bride Quest available in both print and digital. Right now, I haven’t got time to write another new medieval, but we’ll see what the future holds. I sure do miss writing historicals!

    Yes, Cate, it’s much easier to find out who’s who these days than was once the case!

  12. Hi everyone,

    I follow the author, no matter which name she/he is writing under. If the book is good, it doesn’t matter which pseudonym the authors writes.

  13. Your covers are beautiful. Depends on the genre…I am sheepishly going to admit that sometimes I don’t know all of author’s pseudonyms. BTW just read VK Sykes for the first time loved it.

  14. It is through following an author across subgenres that I have discovered many genres. When I come across an author whose book I enjoy I will read their backlist which can encompass more than one genre. I do so happily but sometimes I find I don’t like an author’s voice in one genre as opposed to another and may pass on those books. I don’t do it lightly and often will try several books before giving them up and chalking them up as to not being my cup of tea. For some authors writing across genres work and other times it doesn’t. What is a universal thing I look for in all books is a passionate love story and great characters. 🙂

  15. I have never really understood the reasoning behind multiple pen names. If I like someone’s writing style, I would like to know that they are writing in a different genre. I read a wide variety of books and will miss out on something I might like if I don’t know a favorite author is writing it. I can understand the reasoning behind taking a different name if your switch from historical to paranormal – not wanting historical readers to be upset when they pick up an author’s book expecting 1798 and get vampires. Those of us who would like to follow you to a different genre will be left behind.

    I’ve enjoyed your books for years and am glad “Claire” helped you so much through the years.

  16. i do follow fave author across genre 🙂 funny thing is, when an author has multiple pen names, sometimes i just like them all without knowing that its written by the same person till i stumbled the info on internet 😀

  17. My maiden name is unique and horrible! I would choose a pseudonym any day over my original. 🙂 I think it gives the author the freedom to write in different genres without being stymied by assumptions as to what is within the pages.

    I’ve found little change in style if the author chooses another genre. Voice may be different, but what makes an author inherently appealing to a reader seems to flow from their fingertips, regardless.

    Thanks for the interview! Always fun to read.

  18. Well there are some types of books I avoid (horror for one); but otherwise if I really liked the author I would probably give it a try if the story sounded interesting enough.

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