Is my pen-name the real me?
I’d been writing as Nicola Prentis for a few years before I became Nicola Jane.
Nicola Prentis wrote, and still writes, in the English Language Teaching (ELT) market with three published books and articles for various ELT publications. When I then wrote a choose-your-own-adventure style erotica, Follow Your Fantasy, and it was so filthy even I surprised myself, clearly Nicola Prentis couldn’t put it out. The ELT market is conservative, to say the least, and while classroom activities might include pairwork and small groupwork, they don’t involve threesomes and orgies.
So, Nicola Jane stepped in. She was single, dating for fun more than to Find Someone Special, and was quite happy dating people who were in non-monogamous relationships. She looks like me too, but her face is turned away from the camera so you can’t be completely sure who she is which fits perfectly for the “voice” of a choose-your-own ending because the reader is the main character.
A photograph, a couple of articles about non-monogamy (here and here) and a very explicit book and she became more real than Nicola Prentis. My blog which had covered funny stories about online dating became Nicola Jane’s story even though it had been Nicola Prentis who went on the dates – even the ones with the non-monogamous guys. Nicola Jane blogged about things that empower women and their sexuality, even though these were all topics Nicola Prentis believed in too. I created such a believable character that even people who’d known me for years believed in her.
Such is the Erotica Fallacy. Writers are always told to write what they know. “To know” means to have done something, therefore, erotica writers must have lived it all. My boyfriend still finds it hard to reconcile the two Nicolas and was sure, at the very least (!), I’d slept with women and been to sex parties.
In the year since Follow Your Fantasy was released, Nicola Jane Prentis met The One. Not through online dating, not that there would have been anything wrong with it if she had, but via the much less dramatic work scenario. She had a baby and, even though, she had to write the follow up to Follow Your Fantasy while pregnant, Nicola Jane just faded away. Her blog went quiet, her book promo tailed off; she didn’t have a lot to say.
Nicola Prentis, however, was still blogging and writing in the ELT market. She spoke at a conference about the gender inequality in her industry and was trolled by a load of old misogynists. And she tried to get a chick lit romance she’d written years ago published. Love Lessons is about Sophie Day, an English teacher in Rome who falls for her sexy Italian student, Marco Mezzanotte. Love Lessons draws heavily on my 12 years of teaching English abroad and has plenty of humorous classroom scenes but no sex. Which might be why my publisher didn’t feel it had enough “me” in it and passed on the manuscript.
What they meant, I’m sure, was not enough Nicola Jane – a version of me that came and went in 18 months was more real for them than the me that has been here all along and who wrote a fairly innocent romance based on a 12-year teaching career. That’s fine; I see how the two don’t fit well together. So, I decided to self-publish on Amazon instead. I designed and drew the cover myself, had editing help from friends in my writing group and am really happy with the result.
The next question for me is:
Who is going to promote the sequel to Follow Your Fantasy when it eventually comes out?
Nicola Prentis still can’t for the same reasons she couldn’t before. But then, Nicola Jane needs a face and that face needs to look like mine.
I never intended to bury her, yet she needs reincarnating.
She has just self-published her romance novel, Love Lessons.