I’m no different, except my secret self is well-known in her circles. I have an entirely different persona from the one my neighbors and even some family and friends are aware of. When I play this other person, very few are aware the alternative Tamara – we’ll call her ‘Alt-Tam’ – is me.
I am a writer of mainstream science fiction and horror novels. Alt-Tam is also a writer...a very successful one. Much more successful than I have been, in fact. Alt-Tam's book sales have allowed me to write full time. She’s landed on the bestseller lists in her genre, which just so happens to be erotic fiction.
Yes, under my other name I write naughty novels. As Alt-Tam, I enjoy seeing my books in the top 1000 of Amazon’s bestselling books on a regular basis. I receive fan mail. I am nominated for Best Of lists. Sometimes I even place in those lists. People ask me to go to conferences so they can meet me. It’s weird to get that kind of attention, sometimes even uncomfortable, but it’s fun.
So why the subterfuge? Why don’t I make a big deal out of being Alt-Tam, trumpeting my success?
It’s not because I’m embarrassed to be an erotic fiction writer. There is a stigma attached to such, since most of the publishing world looks down its nose at those of us who write panty-dampening prose. The erotica writer is typically considered a hack, someone writing little more than badly edited porn. However, my mainstream fiction has garnered praise and a couple of awards. I bring the same commitment to good storytelling and professional editing when it comes my odes to bosom-heaving excitement. Turgid manly crotches notwithstanding, I weave compelling stories within which dewy body parts just happen to play slip-and-slide.
Besides, when people ask what I write, I tell them. It’s no big deal. I’m not really trying to hide the fact that I write naughty books, just the name I use when I’m Alt-Tam. To those who are non-judgmental, I’ll even share Alt-Tam’s identity. It’s no big deal.
Then again, it is something of a big deal. With perception of erotic writers being what it is, I don’t want Alt-Tam’s books to harm the perception of my mainstream work. That has been known to happen. Keeping the genres under separate identities keeps people from denigrating my sci-fi and horror novels as being by ‘that sex writer’. It keeps the snobs from getting too critical just because I also write books that leave no orifice unplugged.
But it goes way beyond me. Having a son with special needs keeps me all too aware of how anything I do can rebound on him. I worry about my innocent boy, who resides in the sphere of exceptional and outside what others call ‘normal’ (yes, I sneered as I wrote that word). As a child on the autism spectrum, my little guy is already susceptible to bullies, both young and old. Living in a small town where too many are quick to judge, I have to exercise some care.
I feel others knowing I write erotica is not that big a deal. The public at large discovering the specific books I write could make a difference, however. I don’t want my kid having to listen to others say things like, “Do you know what was in that book his mother wrote?” Or, “Jeez, your mom is a pervert. Are you a pervert too?”
It could happen. People can be cruel because they feel the urge to express their opinion, whether it matters or not (it usually doesn’t). They can judge me all they like (because I honestly don’t give a rat’s ass), but no one messes with my kid just because they don’t like what I do for a living.
There is also the concern that Alt-Tam’s got some rather odd fans out there. Some have turned a little cyberstalker, which is a very huge concern when you’ve got a kid. I don’t want any of the stranger element showing up at my doorstep. My son’s safety is the biggest reason I keep Alt-Tam at something of a distance.
One of these days he’ll be grown up and my line of erotic writing will no longer be an issue in his life. Will I unmask Alt-Tam at that time? I don’t know. It depends on what’s going on with my mainstream writing career at that point. Besides, it’s fun to be someone else, someone who lets her freak flag fly with abandon. It’s nice that I can put that persona on like a costume, then take it back off and be just me again with no one the wiser. A double life can mean double the problems, but it’s also double the fun.