Breaking: U.K. man can imagine what it might be like to be a woman. This week, the Daily Mail revealed romance novelist Jessica Blair to be Bill Spence, an 89-year-old grandfather and World War II hero.
When the Wall Street Journal reported that women writers still need to take a male or gender-neutral pen name in order to break into the science fiction scene, we wondered whether the reverse was true for romance novels. Are readers more likely to pick up a bodice-ripper if it appears to be written by a woman? Turns out, the answer is yes. Spence, who began his career writing Westerns, was given the pen name by his publisher when he decided to use research he’d done for a non-fiction book to set a romantic novel in a nineteenth-century whaling town.
Spence told the Mail that he was just grateful that someone wanted to publish his books, under any name, and that he tried to think in a “female way” when writing. “I suppose some men may suppose their masculinity had been questioned, but it has never bothered me.” His late wife found it “amusing.”