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Galumph_Triumph
03-05-2016, 11:21 PM
Hey friends, I have no clue where to post this. I'm hoping for some insight.
I've already published my debut novel, and built a small following with it. I published that book in my real name.
The problem is, I'm a graduate student and I'm training to become a teacher. It's very likely that I'll be teaching at high schools while I finish my PhD.

I'm wondering if this is going to be a conflict of interests, given that I am principally a horror author, and some of my work involves topics/themes that might upset parents. My novel has a suicide in it, and an implicit allusion to assault. My forthcoming novel is thriller about a father who tracks down down the sexual predator that targeted his son. In an upcoming collection of short horror stories, a few of my stories involve characters using psychedelics. My friends who are religious conservatives were hesitant to even own a copy of my debut novel because it has the word "Devil" in the title.

I think my work is pretty morally grounded. Assault is condemned, suicide is discussed with gentle thoughtfulness, and my characters tend to work through their problems and dark obsessions (the desire for revenge, for example) intelligently and humanely.

At the end of the day, I envision one of my students googling me, finding my books/author page/youtube channel, and reading my work. This isn't a problem because my current students are college kids; they are of age and their opinions don't matter. But when I work with minors, this shit could become a parental firestorm overnight.

What should I do? Should I release my two forthcoming books under a different name and just try to transfer my fanbase over to it? Should I go back and re-release my self-published debut novel under a new pen name (and is that even possible)? Or should I just keep publishing under my real name and assume that because my work does not promote violence, assault, etc. but rather condemns it, it should not be a problem?

Maze Runner
03-05-2016, 11:34 PM
I'd use a pen name. I do use a pen name, my second, for a reason not too dissimilar. It's an issue though, marketing wise. I haven't figured out the answer to that one, so I'll be watching this thread for clues.

Congratulations and good luck.

Brightdreamer
03-05-2016, 11:35 PM
Well, the book's already out there, with your name... would changing to a pen name now somehow change that?

At this point, seems like the bullet's out of the gun. If you're building a following with that name, jumping to a pen-name might set you back - it's up to you if you want to rebuild. But it wouldn't change the existence of what's already been released. If it becomes an issue, deal with it then. (Are you proud of your work? Own it. Be willing to stand up for it if it's challenged. If your goal is high school, I don't expect it would be quite as controversial as if you were aiming for much younger kids; some of the YA out there's pretty dark, and it might just make you more popular with your students. Though I might consider searching for a teaching job in a less conservative area, if possible...)

Just my humble uneducated opinion...

ElaineA
03-05-2016, 11:49 PM
Yuck. I really hate that authors have to worry so much about this stuff but I think you're right to weigh and balance everything. The way I see it, your work is already out there, so trying to hide that is pretty much impossible. If you try to migrate your fan base, you'll have to tell them your new name. Not very sekrit. And tech-savvy kids and parents can track down the connection pretty easily.

What's to be done about parents who will kick up a fuss about this stuff? I don't even know. I *think* the best thing you can do is be forthcoming with the principal of the school you go to work for. You'll need an ally if a parent freaks out. And do try to keep in mind, for the one parent who might freak, you'll have more who think it's no big deal (I would hope). So whether you migrate to a pen name or keep going, keep your superiors at school in the loop. For all you know they've dealt with this before. I know of several erotic romance authors who are teachers so it's not a totally unique situation.

Galumph_Triumph
03-06-2016, 12:40 AM
You know I feel like many students would be absolutely fine with it. But you know how high schools are. One kid brings my book to class because he found it online, then the whole class knows, then the whole school knows. There are bound to be, I don't know, 5 parents with a problem, and 1-2 who want me executed in the streets. I could easily defeat these people in a verbal confrontation by explaining that my first book is about overcoming loss and the second one is about realizing the poverty of revenge. But I think I'd be unrealistic not to expect some blowback.

I wonder if they'd fear to hire me because they knew I was a horror author. I really bet they would be like "Well we need to look at the content of your work" and then they'd see that one of them is about a sexual predator.

andiwrite
03-06-2016, 05:57 AM
I can only say what I would do if it was me.

I'd personally own those books. You're a writer, and you've accomplished getting your books published. That's an amazing thing! That's something that should be used to inspire your students, not something you should hide. Just because the content might be R-rated doesn't mean these accomplishments of yours are of any less value. These are high schoolers. Do you honestly think they're not watching/reading horror? I can't think of one teen I know of that isn't a fan of The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, the SAW movies, etc.

I'd be open about what I wrote but also provide a warning that these books are not meant for anyone under the age of 18. It's not like you're going to be including your books in your study material.

ElaineA
03-06-2016, 06:00 AM
I wonder if they'd fear to hire me because they knew I was a horror author. I really bet they would be like "Well we need to look at the content of your work" and then they'd see that one of them is about a sexual predator.

I don't think you're obligated to say anything at the interview stage.

Galumph_Triumph
03-06-2016, 10:30 AM
I can only say what I would do if it was me.

I'd personally own those books. You're a writer, and you've accomplished getting your books published. That's an amazing thing! That's something that should be used to inspire your students, not something you should hide. Just because the content might be R-rated doesn't mean these accomplishments of yours are of any less value. These are high schoolers. Do you honestly think they're not watching/reading horror? I can't think of one teen I know of that isn't a fan of The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, the SAW movies, etc.

I'd be open about what I wrote but also provide a warning that these books are not meant for anyone under the age of 18. It's not like you're going to be including your books in your study material.

This is good advice, and I think I'm going to take it. I know I'll catch flack from some parents, but screw it. I'm so proud of my work.


I don't think you're obligated to say anything at the interview stage.

I am torn. I feel like "I'm a published author of several books" is a good sell. And yet, "My characters tend to kill themselves and GO INSANE!!!!!11" might not be so much.

Kerosene
03-06-2016, 11:04 AM
Unless your stories are about a teacher murdering high school students, I don't think you have that much to worry about.

This is what I'd do: Don't worry about a pen-name. Real name is already printed. When you get hired as a teacher make sure whoever hired you knows of your written work and consult them about it. Not in the way like, "OMG, I'm so terrible for writing this" but instead like, "Hey, I write adult horror novels and would like to hear your thoughts on how I should approach this with students." Maybe they want you to keep hush-hush, or they might want you to speak openly about it and allow you to give a few copies to the library. Speak with them.

RedWombat
03-06-2016, 07:18 PM
I'd do a pen-name. I am a children's author primarily, and I really wish I'd started with a pen name, because juggling my blog and internet presence with "kids with Google" is miserable.

Kay
03-06-2016, 07:42 PM
I'm kind of in the same boat. I left teaching 12 years ago, never thinking I'd return to it. Yet here I am, working on my master's degree to renew my certificate. I have 2 published full-length novels--women's fiction, heavy on the romance--and a novella as part of an anthology--straight up steamy romance. Any potential employer who googles me, sees my covers, and reads my blurbs... no big deal. But if they read my stuff and see I don't shy away from adult situations, well, I'm not sure I'd be hired. Had I known I'd return to teaching I would've used a pen name.


I'd personally own those books. You're a writer, and you've accomplished getting your books published. That's an amazing thing! That's something that should be used to inspire your students, not something you should hide. Just because the content might be R-rated doesn't mean these accomplishments of yours are of any less value. These are high schoolers. Do you honestly think they're not watching/reading horror? I can't think of one teen I know of that isn't a fan of The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, the SAW movies, etc.

I'd be open about what I wrote but also provide a warning that these books are not meant for anyone under the age of 18. It's not like you're going to be including your books in your study material.

This is what I decided to do. But I'm also making alternative career plans as to what else I could do with my degree.

JSPembroke
03-06-2016, 09:25 PM
Tough to change oars in mid-stream. As others have said, your writing is out there with your name on it and if scandals have shown us anything, it is that people that want to find something will go digging. Rather than looking at it as a potential pitfall, I'd tout the positives - your experience with writing and conquering hurdles, your veteran status in the publishing world.


I'd be open about what I wrote but also provide a warning that these books are not meant for anyone under the age of 18. It's not like you're going to be including your books in your study material.

I think this is the best piece of advice. There's an old saying that sunlight is the best disinfectant. By being open and upfront about it, it not only places you in the confident position of not having to defend yourself, it also implicitly puts the school on your side when some irate parent brings you up - i.e., if they knew about it before they hired you, they must have thought you and your writing were okay.

Galumph_Triumph
03-06-2016, 09:38 PM
Great advice everyone, thank you. I'm going to just be proud of what I've written, and write with my future career in mind. Guess I'll have to cut out the one sex scene I ever wrote from my forthcoming book lol

Fruitbat
03-06-2016, 11:02 PM
Yes, this could definitely be a real problem if you are teaching kids. If a parent ever decides to make an issue of it, it's doubtful your principal will put his or her self in the line of fire by taking your side and they will be taking orders on that from their superiors anyway. The district legal counsel will most likely be the decider, and they are simply not likely to care about your cause nearly as much as not having to spend district money (or explain why they chose to spend taxpayer money that way) and dealing with the hassle. Or, they'll find it on a quick google search and you just won't be offered any teaching jobs and won't be told why. They'd most likely simply avoid or replace a "problem" teacher. How people who aren't involved with how the school districts operate think it should be won't help you.

If teaching kids is what you plan to do, I'd take the novel down right away and change your author name elsewhere as well. Careful also with identifying photos. When applying for jobs, I would not mention it because of the above.

Re-publish the book in a pen name and with a different cover. If any reader notices and complains to you, just refund their money. I think that's the best you can do at this point. Also, if you only have one novel published so far, I don't think that's mid-career. While this would no doubt be a big hassle and involve some loss for you, it's only one book. If you stick with it, chances are you'll have many, many more. Or, stick with teaching college. Good luck.

Cyia
03-06-2016, 11:18 PM
There's enough friction in the "danger" of teachers writing hard core fiction that it made for a good Stephen King novel and a decent Stephen King movie. So there's that to consider. :greenie

You're welcome.

Jamesaritchie
03-07-2016, 02:06 AM
I love pen names, and use several. I hated getting attention when I wrote under my real name. To me, fiction is about the book, but we too often make it about the writer.

But it's not as easy as simply using a pseudonym. If your books are registered with the copyright office under your real name, or if everyone out there in the business, editors, book distributors, etc., anyone interested in the books will find your real name, and you'll receive just as much attention, positive and negative, as you would if your real name were on the cover.

To have maximum protection, you will need ether a DBA, a professional alias, or both. These things are legal pretty much everywhere in the US, but each state has its own procedures and requirements for getting and using them. Check your own state requirements.

It wasn't any trouble at all for me to arrange this, but it's tougher in some states than in others. For me, it was definitely work it because I hate being recognized, and I hate receiving attention. It's intrusive, it means I can't live unnoticed, and can't do anything without attracting criticism. I like being left alone.

The first book was all about what I did. I sold a book, I was proud on my accomplishment, and wanted people to know what I, I, I did. This faded remarkably fast. I had to sell five novels under my own name. Then my contract expired. I'm not sure I've sold as much as a short story under my real name since.

This doesn't mean I never will. I was going to retire this year, but two heart attacks combined with a large investment going wrong have almost made me a starving writer again, and I've been offered the chance to write some things that would have to be under my own name because they tie in with my earlier books.

Anyone, working under true pseudonyms have been great for me, but it does take a lot of effort, and there are downsides to everything. It's your life, your books, your teaching profession, and whether you want to go this way or that is solely up to you.

You know yourself better than any of us know you, so make the decision base don your life, your personality, and your needs ad wants, not on what any of us say.

Fruitbat
03-07-2016, 08:22 AM
Sorry to hear about your recent health and financial downturns, JAR. That's rough. :(

andiwrite
03-07-2016, 11:06 AM
If teaching kids is what you plan to do, I'd take the novel down right away and change your author name elsewhere as well. Careful also with identifying photos. When applying for jobs, I would not mention it because of the above.

Writing a book is not a crime.

Fruitbat
03-07-2016, 03:39 PM
Writing a book is not a crime.

I didn't say it was. Are you familiar with teaching contracts, and the "moral turpitude" kind of things teachers are let go for? He's asking what the realities of getting and keeping that particular job actually are, not our personal opinions of what we think they should be.

Jamesaritchie
03-07-2016, 11:08 PM
Sorry to hear about your recent health and financial downturns, JAR. That's rough. :(

Thanks. I try to look at the bright side. My wife says this was God's way of telling me not to retire. Could be, but just a voice booming out of the sky would have achieved the same results. "You. Yeah, you. Though shalt not retire. Not get back to work."

brainstorm77
03-08-2016, 08:57 PM
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/images/misc/quote_icon.png Originally Posted by andiwrite http://absolutewrite.com/forums/images/buttons/viewpost-right.png (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=9761964#post9761964) Writing a book is not a crime.


Depending on what you write it can be held against you by your employer. I write romance and erotic romance. I know my employer would not look fondly on that. So yes for some like me a pen name is a necessity unfortunately.

Myrealana
03-08-2016, 09:24 PM
Several years ago, I attended a workshop by Rick Riorden. Prior to writing the Percy Jackson books, he wrote adult mystery/crime novels and taught high school.

He mentioned that sometimes students would bring up his Tres Navarre books. He never hid his writing. He would just say he didn't think his books were appropriate for their age group and move on.

Now of course, that was a different time, "Big Red Tequila" was published almost 20 years ago, but I think his example has some merit. You've already got some books out there with your name on them. Hiding now doesn't seem like it would help much. By all means, if you start writing erotica or grimdark, you might want to make some effort to separate one persona from another, but you would probably want to do that anyway.

I say keep your name on your work. Tell your principal your books are out there and ask how they want you to handle it in the classroom.