You’d have to have been living on another planet not to have heard of Kathleen Hale revealing herself to be a special snowflake. After receiving a less-than-stellar review, she decided she couldn’t handle it, and stalked the reviewer. Nope, I’m not kidding. Here’s the article that kicked off the internet shitstorm:
Twitter exploded in a war between the fangirls and the sane people who realise that what she did was immoral and more than likely illegal. Other bloggers…well, blogged, surprise surprise, about it, and numerous counter-articles appeared online:
Now, lest you’re still wondering about what kind of person Kathleen Hale is, here she admits to serious acts of animal abuse: Catch Me If You Can, ASPCA.
Ah, but that’s not all. Here she seems to think that her critics have reading comprehension problems:
Why yes. Yes, that’s exactly what I thought when I read that article, that it was written by a bunch of animals.
Wait, no I didn’t. I thought it was written by an unrepentant animal abuser.
But then came this:
Oh. Oh. Well, that’s okay then.
No word of whether this it was all fiction that she poured peroxide over the head of a girl who’d accused Hale’s mother of sexual abuse. I asked, but strangely, Hale didn’t get back to me.
One of her supporters did, though.
And people still ask why an honest person would want to use a pseudonym. After all of the above. Of course, a pseudonym wouldn’t stop a truly determined nutjob tracking you down, but it puts another obstacle in their path, giving you time to either call the police (more on this later) or charge up the chainsaw.
The Dear Author article I linked to above mentions pseudonymous activities and this whole matter got me thinking about the right of authors (or, indeed, bloggers) to “hide” behind pen names.
Now, you might wonder why an honest-hearted person would change their name for online activities, but there are many different reasons, especially when it comes to erotic romance authors. Those who are parents may be trying to protect their children from teasing or even bullying. Some authors write in multiple genres and use different names for each. Others have difficult-to-spell or hard-to-pronounce real names. There may be another author already using their real name.
And me personally? Well, I’ve had an experience that proves if someone’s determined to find you, a pen name won’t stop them. Why use one? I think because it puts up an unspoken barrier of “You are not entitled to my private life. I am a writer, not your property.”
I have no doubt there are breadcrumbs leading back to me. I think those who mean well respect any speed bumps or barriers I put in their path. Those who mean harm advertise their ill-intent by ignoring these metaphorical stop signs. (Kinda like Kathleen Hale and her paying for a background check into the reviewer who didn’t like her book.) This would, one hopes, prove to a court or any investigating body that they ignored my wishes and failed to respect my boundaries.
Yes, I share from my real life, but to the extent that I choose. That’s the kind of line Hale crossed – she didn’t respect anyone else’s boundaries.
And it could be said that pseudonyms are boundaries beyond which another person should not attempt to go without invitation. It could also be said that Scarlett Parrish is merely another character I write about and that relative anonymity affords me the opportunity to be more honest than my real life persona would allow me to be.
So am I acting? Worse, lying? I don’t think so. We wear different clothes for different things. Bikinis to go swimming. Pyjamas for sleeping. A pseudonym for how we present online in our guises as erotic romance authors.
I may not go into excruciating, privacy-shattering, reckless endangerment-level details, but when I choose to discuss something “real”, I always tell the truth. It’s just that I choose what to share. No-one else makes that decision for me, or at least one would desire that to be the case.
Years back, I was on MSN – remember that? – and a guy for reasons I won’t go into here told me to get offline. I had asserted myself in the face of his overbearing personality, let’s say, and he didn’t like it. He ordered me to get offline. “If you get offline now, I won’t do anything.” Oh really? Naturally I refused, asking who the hell he thought he was. The internet police?
“No,” he said. “But I am a police officer.”
“Whoop-de-fucking-doo,” I remember saying, with my usual level of respect when it comes to pomposity.
The conversation came down to him saying he could track me down if he wanted. I didn’t believe him.
Then he told me my real first name, and my exact address. Right down to which flat in my tenement block I occupy.
Now that made me sit up and take notice. Either he was a corrupt police officer putting a trace on me or he had someone with him or speaking to him online, who knew me and was feeding him the information. This latter is a distinct possibility, but as well as my name, address, phone number, everything else, he was able to give me my I.P. address. Something I still don’t fully understand even after years of computer and internet use, but there you go.
He knew who I was and where I was, and he threatened to “Send the boys round for a visit,” to beat me up and gang-rape me unless I did what he said. Failing that, I was to get offline and never use a computer again.
So what did I do? I told him to fuck off.
Oh, and I checked all my doors and windows were locked.
And I said, “You should know I’m keeping a record of this conversation, and I’m currently emailing it to everyone I know. So if anything happens to me, they’ll know who’s responsible. If you think I’ll get offline as punishment for not being obedient to your bad self, you can suck my fat hairy cock.”
Or words to that effect.
Now, I’m not saying I wasn’t scared. Of course I was. But as you’ll know from my tweets and other blog posts, I’m a great one for blagging my way out of a difficult situation.
I stayed online.
(No, I didn’t report the incident to the police. I was scared that he really was a police officer and his brother officers would back him up.)
Would a pseudonym have stopped all of the above happening? No. Remember, he knew everything about me. My genuine, real-life details.
Why bother using a pseudonym if I’m not protected, if no-one is truly protected? Well, as I said, it puts an extra barrier up. Makes it clear this is my public life, this my private.
Respectful people will be okay with that. Bent coppers or special snowflakes like Kathleen Hale won’t, but the reaction she’s currently getting online show the general feeling is that she’s in the wrong.
If my experience with P.C. Plod recurred, how would I react? Likely in the same way. I’d go on Twitter, tell people what was happening. Email everyone in my gmail contacts.
It was a scary experience. And being Scarlett Parrish wouldn’t have stopped it. At the end of the day, writing is what’s important to me, and I wanted to name myself in a way, as well as titling my books. If that guy ever reads this blog post, he could link the “real life” me with Scarlett and cause a whole heap of trouble, but you never know – by going as public as my conscience and legality will allow, I actually might be protecting myself.
Because linking public Scarlett and private me would prove to the world that he was the guy who threatened my life years back. How else would he know my real life identifying details?
After all, if I haven’t authorised someone’s knowledge of my identifying details and they go public with them, they’re kind of advertising that they’re breaking the law, going against another person’s wishes, putting their safety in danger and being an all-round bunglecunt.
A bit like Kathleen Hale, really.