Award Winning, Best Selling Author
Life is stranger than fiction. The More Heat Than the Sun series is currently offline because it’s being repackaged and is about to be released with a new publisher. Getting the manuscripts ready led me to revisit the unfinished Book 9, and I was struck by how much this final novel is about true identity. Of course, the whole series, and particularly the character Nikolas Mikkelsen, deals with this thorny issue. But it struck me that given the transformative struggle that Nikolas undergoes in this final edition to the series, it was time to shine a bit of light upon my own identity.
John Wiltshire is obviously a pen name, but he’s more than that, he’s a character in my own mind as real as Ben or Nikolas. When I started to write Love is a Stranger, it seemed very natural to me to a take a male persona to give authenticity to the fact I was writing about men in the army. After all, I had spent my entire adult life in the military with men competing successfully on their terms, living with them, working alongside them, usually not another woman in sight. After 22 years in that environment and reaching the rank of major, it was the most natural thing in the world for me to decide to write about army men as a man.
When the books were actually published, I was stuck with John as he was with me. We bumped along uneasily at times, especially when the series started to be popular. Unlikely as this will seem, I did not choose a male identity in order to smooth my road writing gay books. It never occurred to me to do so as I do, in fact, have a vast back-catalogue of extremely popular m/m fan fiction which I wrote very happily and successfully as a woman. Rather, I chose to be a male author to give authenticity to my army characters and situations. Who wants to read Jack Reacher written by a woman? To the best of my knowledge, I never actually stated I was a gay man, nor put myself forward for any awards or financial gain that should rightly be reserved for marginalised authors. My publishers and editors knew I was a woman when I pitched the novels to them, so, again, I did not ‘take a publishing slot’ which should have been reserved for a male author. However, I’m aware than many fans assumed I was a gay man and I did not correct them in those assumptions. That was wrong. But in my defence, other than gender, John is me and entirely authentic—his hobbies, interests, opinions (for better or worse), are mine. We do live in New Zealand. And, fortunately, John has the same taste in men as I do.
If my ‘coming out’ as a woman adversely affects some readers to the extent that Ben and Nik, Squeezy and Tim are ruined for them, and they will never read another John Wiltshire novel, then I do understand and I am genuinely sorry. It was never my intention to trick anyone, just to make a couple of ex-army men more real for their fans. Perhaps you will have other issues with this announcement that don’t relate to the books themselves, and that is totally fine—feel free to vent your anger and frustration. But perhaps, like me, you really don’t mind who writes a book, you just want to escape into the bubble of a fictional world that is, when all is said and done, often better than the one we live in. I hope this will be the case.
Whatever your reaction to this news, I wish you all nothing but happy reading, wherever you now choose to find your fix.