Many authors write under pseudonyms and J K Rowling is no exception, she’s just the most recent author to “get caught out” and her once secret nom de plume is a secret no longer. It appears that the writer wanted to get away from the world of Muggles and wands and instead wanted to write about crime and an ex-military sleuth as author Robert Galbraith.
But writing under another name is not a new thing, nor is it unusual. Ed McBain, aka Evan Hunter did it, Donald Westlake, Stephen King and a slew of other authors have written books under their “assumed” names and had great success doing so. So Rowling is actually participating in a long tradition of writing under another “secret” nom de plume that is now no longer a secret.
King was the most publicised, before Rowling got rumbled. King actually decided to reveal the secret himself after having some less than savoury dealings with a nameless individual who tried to blackmail the author after said individual discovered King’s secret, that he wrote books as Richard Bachman.
King even used the experience to write one of his supernatural books title The Dark Half, where his protagonist writer is literally haunted by his own pseudonym.
The book that the 47 year-old female author wrote under the name of Robert Galbraith, was The Cuckoo’s Calling. The book did very well in the sales department and the short “author’s bio” attached to the literary work stated that, ” Galbraith was an ex-military man who was married with two sons. He who wrote the novel based on experiences from his military life.” It also says that the name of Galbraith is a pseudonym.
The debut novel, according to The Washington Post is about a war veteran turned professional sleuth who gets called in to investigate a model’s unexplained death and the book garnered very enthusiastic reviews. It was published by an affiliate of Publisher’s Little, Brown & Co.
The way that Rowling was unmasked came about by a newspaper’s own private sleuthing. The Sunday Times, wanted to know more about this burgeoning author and began to collate information about the retired military man. The paper wanted to find out, “how a first-time author with a background in the army and the civilian security industry could write such an assured debut novel.”
It was this investigation that suddenly pieced together the puzzle when similarities began appearing between Galbraith and Rowling. The Sunday Times said the clues that appeared included the realisation that both authors shared the same agent and editor. Combined with the fact that Little, Brown & Co published Rowling’s “grown-up” novel as well also led the paper to look at the writing styles of both authors a bit more closely. The two writers shared common traits.
Once Rowling’s publicist confirmed the papers detective work, the book written by Galbraith suddenly became a very hot property and sold out. Although according to Waterstones, that was not too impressive a feat and there were only a “handful” scattered throughout stores in the country.
However, publishers Little, Brown & Co have said that new copies are being produced and will be on their way to bookshelves with an appended author bio.
When Stephen King was rumbled as being Richard Bachman, he slowly eased off the “imaginary” writer’s output, but it looks as though J K Rowling will be continuing to write as her “secret” nom de plume, even though it is not a secret anymore. In a statement from her publicist, Rowling said, “I hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback from publishers and readers under a different name.” Sounds to us like she means to continue, despite the new lack of anonymity.
By Michael Smith