A rose by any other name

I didn’t get much writing done yesterday. Too busy being aggravated by the Josh Lanyon mess.

For those of you who missed it, Josh ‘came out’ as being female. Since (s)he and I have been friends for a decade, the news didn’t come as a surprise to me. I already knew, and knew it was coming; that Diana was psyching herself up for it, since she knew the fallout that was likely to happen as a result. I thought she was worrying for nothing. Turns out she wasn’t. Some people are VERY upset, and saying some very ugly things as a result.

Here’s the thing. We all – or many of us – use pseudonyms, for a variety of reasons. When Diana wrote her first couple of M/M mysteries, M/M wasn’t a genre, and women didn’t write it. Now they do – most M/M writers, and most M/M readers, are female – and that’s thanks in large part to Josh, who did a lot to put the genre on the map.

Jenna Bennett isn’t my real name. Jennie Bentley isn’t, either. My real name is foreign – as am I – and when I started publishing, I didn’t want anything to possibly turn a reader off from picking up my book. If he or she didn’t like it based on the book’s merits, that’s one thing, but to disregard it outright because the author had a weird name and sounded like a furriner, that’s something else. I wanted to give the book every chance to succeed, and publishing under a pseudonym was part of that. My publisher agreed, and that’s how Jennie Bentley was born. A nice, friendly, English-speaking name. Nothing that might give anyone pause. And then Jenna came along later, when I needed a new name, since I couldn’t continue to be Jennie without stepping on the publisher’s toes.

For the record, I’m female. That’s really my picture up there. I look like that, or did a couple of years ago when the picture was taken. That doesn’t stop me from getting into the head of a guy once in a while and writing from his point of view. At some point he might even be gay.

That’s what I do. I’m a writer. My job is to give voice to my characters, no matter who they are. No matter how similar, or different, they are to me. And who I am – gay or straight, married or single, American or European – has nothing to do with it.

Who Josh Lanyon is – gay or straight, married or single, male or female – has nothing to do with anything, either. Just like Jenna and Jennie, Josh is a label. The books were easier to sell with Josh’s name on the covers. And that’s all. It was no big conspiracy. Nobody lied. It was just an author – one of many – using a pseudonym to publish books in a certain genre. People do it every day, for a lot of different reasons. It was a business decision. Nothing more and nothing less. And it seriously pisses me off that people are so bent out of shape over what they see as this big betrayal. Josh never claimed to be male. The word ‘he’ is nowhere in Josh’s bio. There’s no picture of Josh anywhere, apart from the cocktail glass with the olive. Whenever the question came up, Josh’s response was always, “I’m not going to state my gender, because my gender doesn’t matter.” If that isn’t enough to clue people in, I don’t know what would be. To me, it’s been pretty obvious all along, and not just because I knew.

Anyway, sorry for the rant. If you haven’t already read Josh’s Adrien English mystery series, I highly recommend it. Quite similar to the Savannah books in a lot of ways.