People is complaining about authors in the M/M community impersonating a character, and they are saying, why is happening now, why is so common in this community, this is bringing bad attention to the community…
First of all, remember the wise words of Oscar Wilde: "There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."
Second, I want to tell you a story: in 1962 a newbie author by the name of Rosalind Erskine published a novel, The Passion Flower Hotel. The story concerns a young girl going to an English girls' boarding school. In the dormitory, the girls discuss losing their virginity and decide that the best way is to set up a "service" for the local boys' school situated across the lake from them. It was adapted as a musical in 1965 and as a movie in 1978. It was a huge success and it became a “loosely” Lesbian classic. Loosely since the story wasn’t really targeting the Lesbian readers, but that was what happened and many young Lesbian girls around the world started to send fan mails to Ms Erskine (and I know for sure since one of those young lesbians told me she did), and she replied to them with advices and good words. She gave them sometime hope, sometime pleasure. But if various fans, from various genre of literature, checked carefully, they would have found an odd coincidence: Ms Erskine shared her mail address with Scottish historical novelist Laura Black, spy thriller novelist Ivor Drummond, mystery thriller novelist Frank Parrish, black comedy about dysfunctional families’ novelist Domini Taylor and even other two smaller authors, Megan Barker and Grania Beckford. Plus sport writer Roger Longrigg. Was this a sort of literary agent who was working for many authors? Was he collecting the fan mail for all his clients? When Mr Longrigg died, the truth came out: Mr Longrigg adopted different styles and pseudonyms to suit different audiences. But it wasn’t just a question of using pen-names, he replied to his fan mail as Ms Erskine, he accepted awards for emerging writers as Domini Taylor, he released interviews as Queen of Gothic Romance as Laura Black… was he deceiving his readers or was he giving them what they wanted?
Now I want, for once, take my position: if you are a man and want to write with a female pen-name since you think romance readers will trust you more (Roger Longrigg/Laura Black, Tom E. Huff/Jennifer Wilde, Nick Bienes & Rhea Gallaher/Judith Gould, William Maltese/Willa Lambert) or if you are a woman and want to write with a male pen-name since you think readers of Gay romance will trust you more, that is up to you. I sincerely do not care. I care for your books. I personally think Jennifer Wilde’s books were too much, I did not like the romance in it, the sex was good, but the romance was so and so… was that since Jennifer was in reality Tom? Maybe. Sure you are deceiving your fans, who believe what you say you are, but in the end, if you let “speak” your books, the stories in the books, and what you are only faking is the name of the author on the cover of the book, then, again, I do not care. I’m buying your book, not you; the story is good? The money I spent are well spent.
But if you are a thirty something female author, faking to be a male teen prostitute to be able to catch the interest of a notorious male gay novelist so that he will sponsor you with his publisher (J.T. Leroy anyone? Do you remember that story?) and when you manage to do so, you use the teenager sister of your husband to impersonate the supposed gay teen prostitute, and you sold his fake personal life other than your real fictional books… well, then maybe you went a little over. People is not only buying your books, you decided also to sell yourself, and sorry, but I want to obtain what I decided to buy: if I want to buy fake bijoux I go to Wallmart, if I want to buy diamond I go to Tiffany, if Tiffany sold me fake bijoux than they are deceiving me.
Personally I do not think the readers should associate too much their personal life with their fictional dreams, cause in doing so, they are, from my point of view, eradicating the reason of being reader. Let me explain: once they asked me why I read Gay Romance, and I told them, me, as a working woman, was not able to identify with the female heroine. That is partially true, but it doesn’t explain why I was reading heterosexual romances before gay romances. But there is an important detail: when I was reading heterosexual romances, my favorite genre was Historical Romance or Paranormal Romance; now that I’m reading gay romances, my favorite genre is Contemporary Romance. Do you see the connection? I like to read about dreams. I’m a romantic reader, I want the romance, I want the dream, I do not want the reality. Again please, be careful, this is ME and not for everyone. If I read contemporary romance with an heterosexual couple, that could be me, and I do not want to read about me, so I prefer historical romance, because I cannot live in the past. If I read contemporary romance with a male gay couple, I’m good, since I’m not male and I’m not gay, and I do not want to be male and/or gay. So to the previous question of why I read Gay Romance, my answer should not have been, “I’m not able to identify with the female heroine” but better “I do not want to identify with the female heroine”.
So, when I’m reading gay romance, I’m reading fiction, and in a way, I do not care if the author is a woman or a man, I care about the fiction. But if I’m a man, and gay, and I read a gay romance, I probably care about the author, cause I’m probably identifying with them. And if the author appropriates my identity, of gay man, he is hurting me: AIDS, rejection, fear, and many other scares, they didn’t live them, and therefore, they can write fiction about it, but they cannot pretend to have gone through them in real life.
Another point is when the reader, female or male, other than caring for the books, start to care for the author, pushed or not by the author themselves. Again I think the fault, if fault you want to find, lays on both side: as a reader you are buying the books, you should not “buy” the author. You want to help the community? Buy the books to help spreading the acknowledgment of the community, and then pick a shelter near to you and help there; there are plenty of LGBT young people needing your help, and they are probably living just a block from you, or worst, they are homeless and dying just a block from you. And if not youth shelters, there are organizations who help AIDS patients, old people, people with disability, veterans… change the world starting from your own home. You want a list? I have hundreds of links to LGBT organizations.
But let’s say you trusted that author, believing he needed your help since he was a runaway, homeless, a former prostitute, a veteran, living with AIDS or whatever, and in the end she was not… yes, she was wrong. But remember, she sold you the story you wanted to buy.