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!