Why he has to write in a frock

Iain Banks explains in the U.K. Sunday Times how he came in one phone conversation to undergo a writerly sex change:

The photographer had finally got around to it. “Got any dresses upstairs by any chance?” he blurted out.

I knew he’d get there in the end. The poor sod had travelled all the way from Manchester with strict instructions from his picture desk editor still ringing in his ears: get me a picture of Emma Blair in a frock, pounding away at her typewriter.

On the face of it, not an unreasonable request. One of Scotland’s most popular romantic writers with 25 books under her belt, surely she couldn’t object to donning a pretty dress for a publicity shot. But then Emma Blair is actually Iain Blair, Glasgow born and bred, 6ft 3in and a 60-a-day man. One look at me and the photographer realised his frock fantasy was doomed. I don’t have the legs for a start.

You get used to being asked the same questions when you write romantic novels under a female pseudonym. One of the first is nearly always: why Emma? A childhood sweetheart? A penchant for Jane Austen? The answer is neither. Having already had four thrillers published, which had promptly disappeared into oblivion, I was still struggling to establish myself as a novelist under my own name.

Then I sat down and wrote a saga to a previous work, Where No Man Cries. And bingo, my agent rang me to say she had found a publisher. But there was a snag. The publishers thought it was definitely a women’s read and at that time, women tended to buy books written by women, especially romantic fiction.

“Do I get any say in my new alter ego?” I inquired tentatively, still reeling at the prospect of a literary sex change.

“Nope,” she said. “They’ve already decided. You’re Emma Blair.”

(If you can’t read it, see if BugMeNot does the trick.)


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