Monday, June 25, 2012

Visiting Dignitary David Coe AKA DB Jackson

I am FINALLY back to having dignitaries visit.  And so I want to present to you our newest, multi-name dignitary who is here to discuss pseudonymity.

What's in a name?  Well, let's let DB/David tell you --

I was at a convention this past weekend, signing books, postcards, con programs, etc. -- in the past I have been asked to sign e-readers and yes, even body parts. At one point during this most recent con, someone put something in front of me and I raised my pen to sign, only to stop again and stare blankly at the person in front of me. For that one moment, for the very life of me, I couldn’t remember which name I was supposed to sign.

     I have been writing epic, alternate-world fantasy for over fifteen years. I’ve published a dozen books under my own name, and enjoyed some success both commercially and critically. So why would I now be writing under a different name? What sense is there in essentially “starting over” as this creature known as D.B. Jackson? To be honest, there really is more sense in it than you might think.

     Cie, who has been kind enough to invite me to her site today, knows all about this writing-under-multiple-names stuff -- far more than I do, actually. I’m pretty new to the whole pseudonym phenomenon. But I have to admit that I’m enjoying it so far.

     The basic point of the new name is this: THIEFTAKER, my first book as D.B. Jackson (due out from Tor Books on July 3), marks a significant departure from my previous work. How? Well, it is a historical urban fantasy. It is a stand-alone novel, the first in a series of stand-alones. And it is different in tone, style, and voice from my other work. Let’s take those one at a time.

     Historical urban fantasy. What does that even mean? The historical part is easy. The Thieftaker books and stories are all set in Colonial Boston, specifically in the 1760s, when the first rumblings of rebellion were sweeping through the British colonies. THIEFTAKER begins on August 26, 1765, the night of the Stamp Act riots. I have a Ph.D. in U.S. history, and I have done all I could to make the setting as accurate as possible. But I have also inserted a murder into the time line, and I have made my lead character not only a thieftaker -- a sort of 18th century private detective -- but also a conjurer who can cast spells in pursuit of those who have committed crimes. That’s where the urban fantasy element comes in. The murder mystery, the urban setting, the thieftaker angle, and most of all the use of magic make this a pre-Revolutionary urban fantasy, which is kind of uncommon.

     Unlike my other novels, most of which were parts of extended story-arcs, each of the Thieftaker books stands alone as a mystery with a beginning, middle, and end. Each of the stories is also linked in some way to a historical event. (The second Thieftaker book, THIEVES’ QUARRY, which comes in the summer of 2013, revolves around the occupation of Boston by British troops in 1768.) So readers will be able to pick up any book in the series and start reading; there is no need to read them in any particular order. And finally, because these books are mysteries, they have a different tone than one might expect from an epic fantasy. The prose is leaner, the voice of the main character in more hard-boiled; they almost have a “noir” feel, even as the characters speak in the vernacular of the 1760s.

     For all of these reasons, it seemed like a good idea to write the books under a new name. As David B. Coe [Link:] I wrote those sprawling fantasies I mentioned before. D.B. Jackson’s work is different, and so needs to be packaged differently. Publishers call it “author branding” and it’s actually not nearly as painful as it sounds . . .

     More to the point, for me at least, the pseudonym has become more than a marketing tool. It has become a license to experiment, to try new things, to break out of the creative patterns I had established over the course of my career. Recently I have been writing a lot of short fiction in the Thieftaker “universe” -- a couple of my stories can be found on the samples page of the D.B. Jackson website [Link:] -- and I have found myself trying things as D.B. Jackson that I wouldn’t have done under my own name. It’s not that my new work is so “out there” as to be unrecognizable, or unreadable. But I feel a certain sense of liberation simply because I can use plot lines or draw characters that are different, innovative, that don’t necessarily dovetail with expectations that might have grown out of work I’ve done before. I’m enjoying that freedom, and in large part because of it, I believe I’m producing some of the best writing I’ve ever done.

     I’ve also found that as I start to promote my new book in earnest, I am less inhibited as D.B. Jackson than I have been in the past as David B. Coe. I am willing to shout about his book from the rooftops, even if people think I’m crazy. Maybe that’s because it feels like I’m talking about “someone else’s” book. Or maybe it’s because I’m so excited about THIEFTAKER.

     Whatever the reason, I feel that my new career as D.B. Jackson is getting off to an exciting start. Pretty soon the book will be out and I’ll be off on a signing tour to promote it. I hope to see many of you along the way, and I promise to do my best to sign the correct name in your book!


D.B. Jackson [Link:] is also David B. Coe, the award-winning author of a dozen fantasy novels. His first book as D.B. Jackson, THIEFTAKER, volume I of the Thieftaker Chronicles, has been called “a noteworthy series opener,” by Publishers Weekly and a “diverting, fast-paced ‘what-if’ novel,” by Booklist. It will be released by Tor Books on July 3. D.B. lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.


drh said...

I've often wondered if using a pen name or pseudonym was for privacy. I read your post and realize there is so much more to it. It sounds like fun, the chance to reinvent yourself through writing. Thank you for the insight. You have sparked my interest so I plan to look up your books and start reading soon!

drh said...

I've often wondered if using a pen name or pseudonym was for privacy. I read your post and realize there is so much more to it. It sounds like fun, the chance to reinvent yourself through writing. Thank you for the insight. You have sparked my interest so I plan to look up your books and start reading soon!

Kersleaf50 said...

I would imagine you have discovered a whole new parcel of readers, with much different and varied tastes when you stated writing under your pseudonym. I think that would be refreshing to "reinvent" yourself. I know for myself, when I discover an author I really enjoy and can't seem to get enough of,AND then find they are writing more books under a pseudonym,I start reading those just because I am so familiar with older works and found so much entertainment in them.

cjparker said...

Wow, impressive blog post. I'm sorry to say I've never read any of your work, but that will be remedied today.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

robinky42 said...

The Thieftaker sounds like it would be a good book. Will have to check it out when it hits the bookstores.

Shari C said...

Thank you for the insight into pseudonyms or pen names. The 'Thieftaker' sounds quite interesting and I am looking forward to its arrival in bookstores. Thank you for your posting.

Jackie said...

Can totally see where it could cause an author to go "blank" at a book signing, kind of like when you ask my spouses birthday or social security number they are easy to divulge but when have to think of mine it takes a minute. Good luck with your new series, sounds like a good mix of elements for readers to enjoy.

crazycatlady58 said...

I am not familiar with this author but will be checking my library to see if it is there.

lady reader said...

I've always wondered about this subject. I come across authors all of the time that use pseudonyms and I never knew before. And then I find all of these books that this person has written with a different identity. I was so confused. I think I understand much better now. Thank you for that! ;-)


Anonymous said...

DRH, thanks so much for the comment and your interest in my books. Sometimes a pen name is for privacy. In the past in our genre it was for gender neutrality -- many female SF writers in the 70s wrote under initialed names (like D.B. Jackson) so that people wouldn't know they were women. The reasons vary from author to author, really. But branding is becoming quite prevalent.

Kersleaf, thanks. I am hoping that what you describe will happen. the book comes out in a week, so I guess we'll see. Fingers crossed!

CJ, thanks. It's a pleasure to be here. I hope you enjoy the books.

Robin, thank you!

Shari, my pleasure. I appreciate the comment.

Jackie, thanks. Yeah, I imagine the blanking issue is only going to get worse as Thieftaker becomes popular (I hope).

CCL58, thanks. If your library doesn't get THIEFTAKER in, request it! They'll usually listen to patrons.

Amy, thank you. Glad you found the post informative.

C. T. Adams said...

David, thanks for coming by! More comments should be arriving today. And as a "multiple name" author, I can add that our pen name came about because the booksellers were having trouble shelving and listing us in inventory in the computer. "Should it be under Adams or Clamp?"

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for having me, Cie. I've yet to do a collaboration, but I can easily imagine facing the same issues with naming and shelving.

Anonymous said...

My first sci fi book was by Andre Norton,who was in actuality a woman.I always wondered if I wrote a book(ok,ever FINISHED a book)if I wanted to use my real name or a fictional one.
Ive never read any of your books either,but the Thieftaker ones sound very interesting.I was a history major so I think I will ck them out.Enjoyed reading about you.