It’s funny how things turn out.
For instance, at the moment, if I’m known for anything it’s for being the man behind Tania Carver. A cross-dressing crime novelist. At least figuratively. I’m sure most people will be familiar with the story of how all that came about. Or at least it feels like people should be – I’ve told it many times at events all over the country. It was kind of a bet between David Shelley, publisher at Little, Brown and me. He didn’t think I could be the high concept female thriller writer he wanted. I bet him I could. Thus was born Tania Carver. And I won the bet.
Tania’s coming out was when she (I?) was shortlisted for the Theakston’s Award for the first novel, The Surrogate. The audience were expecting a woman on stage, up walked me. I didn’t win but it achieved, as I believe the correct publishing parlance has it, brand recognition. And that was that. I was off as Tania. And David Shelley did the same trans-pseudonymous thing a few years later with Robert Galbraith. Heard of him?
The sixth Tania novel, Truth Or Dare, has just been published. And I’m almost finished the seventh in the series, Heartbreaker. And that’s where (and who) I am at the moment.
But not quite.
Because before I became Tania I was just Martyn and I’d written nine novels. Four of them were the Joe Donovan series. Set in Newcastle, they concerned the exploits of a burnt-out information broker trying to get his life back together while he searched for his missing son. And solved crimes. It was a fun series. I really liked writing them. And they’ve just been reissued by Little Brown as ebooks. Needless to say, I thoroughly recommend them. Before that I wrote other books, including Born Under Punches, a novel about the miners’ strike that’s just won/been shortlisted for tons of awards in France, and The White Room, a fictionalised account of the life of Mary Bell. Still crime novels, but very different from what I’m doing at the moment.
It’ll be interesting for anyone who’s only read Tania to read Martyn. To read a Donovan. Is there a difference? In style or content? In gender, even? I don’t know, to be honest. That’s not a cop out because I get asked that question a lot and I can never really answer it. It’s just an honest answer. I’m a writer doing what I do, not an academic explaining what it is that writers do. It’s for others to decide if there’s a difference. Readers. I just know whether something’s for Martyn of for Tania and write accordingly. And no, in answer to another question I get asked a lot (A LOT), I don’t wear a dress when I write. At least not as Tania.
So what is Tania to me? Well, I like to look on her as Donald Westlake looked on Richard Stark. Obviously not in terms of content – my books are way longer, for one thing and not about a professional criminal – but as a pseudonym who could be said to have a life – and a readership – all of their own.
And while that may not be the way I thought things would turn out, it’s the way things are.
And I think that’s pretty cool, really.