Friday, March 16, 2012

Bare Faced Truth

by Kristina Wright

I've never been good at being someone else. I'm a competent liar and capable of deception (fiction writers are, after all, the best liars), but to slip on the mask of a different personality entirely? I have never been able to do it competently. I couldn't even use a pseudonym for more than two erotica stories before I resorted to my real name for sanity's sake. Honestly, in most all situations, what you see is what you get with me. Is that good or bad?

There have been occasions where I wonder if it's good to be so... ME... all the time. Times when I wish I could be exotic or elegant or mysterious or simply more clever/smart/beautiful than I really am. Times when I wished I could fit in, belong, be one of the crowd, whatever the crowd is. I don't fit in anywhere--and I have given up trying. And I've discovered that it's very liberating to just be me. And sometimes it's fun to watch people try to reconcile the different aspects of who I am and make sense of it.

I used to enjoy dressing up in costume when I was younger, but the idea of going to a costume party right now me hives. I used to enjoy pretending to be someone else when I was a kid, but somewhere in the last twenty odd years, I kind of settled pretty well into my own skin and don't even want to bother. When we were teenagers, my friends and I would sometimes pretend to be British or French and affect accents to go along with new names. I always forgot my name and couldn't keep up the accent.

I am Kris or Kristina or Kristina Wright in everything I do. Every story I've written, with the exception of the two online stories I wrote over a decade ago, have been under Kristina Wright or some variation thereof. Kris Wright for my only gay erotic story, Lynn Cole (my middle name and maiden name) for an anthology that included two of my stories, Tina Simmons (the second half of my first name and my mother's maiden name, which was my legal name until I was 12) for a book that included three of my stories. All of my email addresses, with the exceptions of the ones for anthologies, are all variations of my real name.

Of course, using my real name doesn't mean people who don't know me in real life really know me. Reading my erotica (or any of my other fiction) may tell you a lot about my imagination, but it won't tell you much about who I am as a person, no matter how much a reader might assume otherwise. Reading the nonfiction I write, including my OGG posts, will give you a real glimpse into my life but it's only a snapshot, not the complete picture. The same with following me on various social networks or other blogs. All parts of the whole. Real, but incomplete.

Here's the truth-- no one really wants to know all of me, including the people who know me in real life. Maybe that's true for all of us who lurk on the fringes of several circles. Unless you're smack dab in the middle of whatever circle you're a part of, people are going to take what they're comfortable with and leave the rest in the closet. And that goes for the erotica writing circle, where my middle-aged, upper middle class life, 22 year marriage and 2 babies aren't very interesting, as well as for the suburban middle class circle, where my liberal politics, agnostic religious beliefs and erotica writing don't fit. I am not completely comfortable in any circle, but yet I can't even slip into the mask of what I'm supposed to be in order to fit into the circles I am a part of. Sigh.

I admire those writers who are able to slip in and out of their personas. I imagine it must be a relief to get to be someone else entirely, if only for a little while, and be completely accepted for being that particular identity. The masks authors wear are sometimes so believable that even I fall for them. I have been startled to realize that the names I've associated with some authors are actually pseudonyms. In fact, I once carried on lengthy email exchanges with two authors and didn't realize they were the same person until author A referenced the email I'd sent author B. The author wasn't trying to deceive me, but had assumed I was trying to keep the issues we were discussing separate. Ha! Now that is an author who is good at wearing a variety of masks-- and then there's me, taking everything at face value.

Does anyone really know me-- all of me? In truth, none of us is known (or knows anyone else) 100%. Human nature dictates that we keep something of ourselves private. Our secret hearts hold our most precious dreams and greatest fears, and we don't reveal all to anyone. On the other hand, anyone who has known me in real life or anyone who has access to the bulk of my online life could write a decent biography of me. And I'm okay with that. As I continue to struggle with my author "brand" I'm discovering that this is my brand-- being myself, being this very real person who has many facets, but only one name and one face-- and no masks at all.


  1. Hi, Kristina,

    In some ways I envy you the simplicity of your existence. I expend a good deal of effort and care trying to make sure that Lisabet Sarai doesn't collide with my real world self. Occasionally I make a mistake, and it's scary. Not because I'm ashamed of Lisabet or her oeuvre, but because I'm afraid of what some malicious individual might do if I let the mask slip.

  2. I should say that I also envy, a bit, the fact that your achievements as a writer and editor belong to your real world self. I can't brag to my family or friends about my books, even if they'd be accepting of the content. It's just too risky.

  3. Oh Kristina,

    I understand this post all too well. I wrestled with the nom de plume idea when I started in erotica, but I knew it wouldn't work for me. Despite the fact that I live in a conservative town (at least for the next month or so) I'm not good with masks.

    My day job existence and writing existence are two very different things, and that is complicated enough. Trying to work with another persona would just be too much for me.

  4. I found this post very charming somehow, Kris. :) The comment about the email exchange with author A and author B made me giggle.

    I find the "mask" and pseudonym subject interesting. When I chose to use a pen name, I did so entirely because I love the name "Emerald" (I wanted to legally change my first name to such when I was a kid, lol) and realized this seemed a perfect opportunity to use it. To be honest, it didn't even occur to me to either use it because I didn't want what I was writing associated with my legal name or to use a name that sounded "real" so that it might actually seem to come off as my legal name. Using only a one-word name was, I think, not only because I loved the name Emerald but also because I wanted it to be obvious that it was a pen name—I felt no desire to make it seem as though it wasn't.

    For a while I was careful because I used Emerald as my stage name in the sex industry too, and I did my best to keep my legal identity unknown for perceived safety reasons. Since I have shifted from using Emerald as my stage name (mainly because I didn't want to feel compelled to maintain that secret identity where writing was concerned), I have not felt inclined to hide that Emerald and Emily McCay are the same person. :)

    Well, I seemed to go on and on here! I just do, as I mentioned, find it an interesting conversation. Thanks for sharing—I have consistently found it delightful to know however much of you I have. ;)

  5. Thanks so much for your comments! It's interesting how we each choose how or if we will use a pen name. Lisabet, as I said, I admire your ability to *be* Lisabet. I can't imagine what it's like having to worry about being "unmasked," so to speak.

    As for making mistakes, I know you're not the only one who worries about such things. I had an author whom I only knew under a pseudonym email me from a different email address with a different name in the signature (and real-life work related details). I called the mistake to the author's attention, with reassurances that the information was safe with me. I can't imagine that would be true in all situations.

  6. Lisabet ~ I forgot to say, yes, there is something nice about being able to announce sales and books and such. I often walk into my regular Starbucks and have one of the baristas say, "Congratulations, I saw on Facebook that you sold another book!" Ha.

  7. Craig, I think we've talked about names before-- and I agree with you. Keeping up with another name/persona would just be too much work. I don't even know how I would do it. On the other hand, I've never seen any compelling reason why I should. So perhaps if I had a good enough reason for protecting my identity, I would find a way to make it work. I'm thankful I don't need to.

  8. Emerald! Being a May baby, I also love your name. :-) And I do understand the reasons why you wanted to keep your sex work And I was thinking that I might have slipped up on Facebook and tagged the "real" you when you might have preferred to be tagged as Emerald (I'd actually thought you had only one FB page...). So, there are worries on the editor side of things when I know an author is super-protective of their real identity. I try to be very careful and double check everything, but I still worry.

    On another note, have you considered merging your names and being Emerald McCay?

  9. Ha, that was what I wanted to legally change my name to when I was younger! (Really, I did!) I have been so enamored of emeralds ever since I learned as a child that they were my birthstone. :) It is completely fine to tag me any way you'd like on Facebook, though I understand and can appreciate the concern. I've only had my author page since January, so for a while I did only have one FB page.

    There are times I will say I wish I had a two-name pen name, as (as Shar alludes to in her post) sometimes the one name has introduced challenges in labeling or opening accounts (for things that want two names). Also, I've noticed it did not seem to be a very good marketing move—since, you know, it is an object, making Googling "Emerald" not very likely to bring up me. ;) (Marketing had not even occurred to me to be on my radar at the time I received my first publication acceptance!) I have seen that one of our mutual writer friends labels me that way in her email address book—the "To" line of her emails say "Emerald McCay." :)

    And ack, on the subject of making mistakes...when I first started as a webcam model, I offered phone services in conjunction with video. Obviously I wasn't about to give my number out for customers to call (though some workers get a separate tracfone or such for this purpose), so I called them. I was careful to press the code that made my number come up as anonymous on Caller ID—but with one of the first customers I ever had, I managed to forget to do this. I was very not excited when I realized I'd messed that up! : /


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