Just recently, a big story that ran in national publications (People, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone) saw Virginia congressional candidate Denver Riggleman accused of authoring Bigfoot erotica. (He was outed by his opponent, aptly named CockBurn). While the details aren’t super important, the story brings to the forefront what can happen when your author life slams into your real life. While the two generally happily coexist, sometimes they bleed into each other in bad ways. Since we’re living in an age of social media, it’s a good time to examine the ways in which your writing life can impact the rest of your life.
It Can Get You Fired
The most obvious and serious problem that can occur when your author life runs afoul of your regular life is losing a job or business leads. This generally happens if you are an author part-time, with your other job paying the bulk of your bills.
So, what kind of author things can get you fired? It varies, but it generally happens when your author life is at odds with what you do for a living. For example, school teachers writing erotica run a big risk, as parents want to keep little ones away from reading erotica, and often extend this desire to keeping them away from writers of erotica. And while conflating erotica writers with harmful people is a mistake, it happens. In fact, it happened to Carol Ann Eastman, who lost her job when employers found out she wrote erotica.
If you have racist or homophobic rantings in your books, yet you serve the public, you could lose your job, too. It happened to Kelvin Cochran, when the city that employed him felt his homophobic views would erode public trust by having him employed.
Going back to where we began, if you’re running for political office, and people find out you write something that doesn’t comport with their views of you as a candidate, that could be problematic. And in the case of Riggleman, he claims the Bigfoot erotica stuff was all just a joke, though he did actually self-publish a book on Bigfoot. Regardless, the claims and screenshots of his tweets of Bigfoot genitalia are causing a lot of negative media attention.
Will a Pseudonym Help?
Some authors think that having a pseudonym will solve any problems related to content that might not align with their day job. And while this offers a great initial layer of separation, it is not a foolproof way to hide your identity. If the pseudonym is sued, whoever the bookseller is (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) will provide your real identity to litigants. Additionally, many states require people who are using pseudonyms or “doing business as” to file that information in a public database with the state. Therefore, any inquisitive person who knows where to look will have access. Not to mention, any ex (lover, employee, friend) who knows the secret identity and has an axe to grind can reveal the information whenever they want.
Think Through Repercussions
So, if you’re an author who relies on both a day job and your author income, does this mean you can never say anything controversial or inappropriate? Does it mean you can’t write erotica if you’re the pastor at church?
Nope. It just means that you should think through anything that might be a thorny issue. It’s fine to write erotica, but if your day job is one where writing erotica could get you fired, it’s important to know that and decide if it’s worth it. For some people, the love of hot and heavy explicit scenes may be everything. For others, they may decide to tamp it down a bit until they can make writing job their day job.
The same thought process would hold true for any author writings that could jeopardize your day job. For example, if you’re a climate scientist and you think the earth is flat, then you should be aware that your flat-earth views are not going to go over well with your employers (you should probably also go back to school for some refresher courses, too, but I digress).