Welcome to my world! This month’s diary is a big “coming out” party for yours truly – I’m ready to reveal my Secret History!
Well, I’ve been a full time writer for four months now – I can’t believe it. It was my lifelong dream, and here it is, a reality. It’s scary, sure. I never know what changes Amazon will make next that might mess with my income stream, so there’s a lot of economic uncertainty. But then again, the last few jobs I’ve had were contract jobs anyway so, no health insurance? No vacation or sick or holidays? No job security? Check, check and check, so yeah, I’m already used to that.
The scariest part of all this, until a few weeks ago, was that the dream would end, that I’d have to go back to the world of “day jobs,” sitting still all day and getting fat, watching the clock, being paid for my time and not my labor. And as long as I thought that was a possibility, I dreaded revealing myself to the world, dreaded letting people know who the “real Brad Vance” was. What would it do to my job prospects, if people knew (or could easily find out) that I was the author of gay romance and…gasp! Erotica!
As a gay man, I was never really in the closet. I knew early on that I was gay, and I accepted it. I told the parental units in my late teens (Mom’s reaction: “Oh, I don’t think you are.”) Even in high school, all my friends knew it, all my co-workers, the world at large. I was a New Wave kid, kitted out with black hair and a Mad Max-blond streak on the side of my head. I wore side-buttoned turquoise tops with enormous shoulder pads from Chess King, mimicking Steve Strange and Adam Ant, and my friends and I were more familiar to the lyrics of Nina Hagen songs than whatever was in the Top 40.
So I was already a freak, I’d deliberately made myself the object of attention. I was gonna get called “faggot” for that look anyway, so what was there to worry about? And if you hated me for that, well, there was something wrong with you, not with me.
“Being Brad Vance” was my first real experience with having a big secret I had to worry about, the kind of secret that could jeopardize your job, your income. I did tech work for large corporations, some of whom could have cared less, but others, well, I didn’t want to find out what the reaction would be.
And only when I started to feel those fingers of dread did I understand what it’s like to be in the closet. Someone wrote me a fan letter of sorts, saying, ha ha, it was the work of a moment, Brad Vance, for me to find out your real name! And I *freaked.* The last thing in the world I needed at that time, making a paltry few hundred dollars a month on my writing, was for this to be revealed and possibly cost me my job.
Would it really have cost me my job? I don’t know. That’s the thing about being closeted, of course – it’s not the certainty of what would happen, but the terror of what might happen. Talk about stress – I had to be so careful to silo everything, to strip the “author” tag off my Word files, to make sure I didn’t accidentally post on the wrong admin page of my WordPress blogs, all these little things.
I found myself at work doing what every closeted person does – carefully editing my life to remove the parts that might offend, keeping people at arm’s length so they wouldn’t “find out.” And of course, you don’t really make friends with people when you’re hiding something that big, when your ability to trust people is that impaired.
But I’m ready now, to come out. Not because I’m so certain that I’ll succeed as a writer, that I won’t fail financially and have to do something else. Even if I do, I think I can make a living on creative side projects, doing editing or advising writers on their manuscripts or formatting ebooks or narrating audiobooks…something, anyway.
But if not? It doesn’t matter, because I’ve decided that I’m never going back, never going to go somewhere I have to worry about “Being Brad Vance.” Life is stressful enough without that, no matter how well it pays.
It’s also given me one thing I never had before – compassion for people in the gay closet. How I despised them when I was young! It was all their fault, all this discrimination and suffering! If only they’d come out, strength in numbers, it would all go away, all this prejudice and hate. Now, at least, I understand that it’s terror that paralyzes you in the closet – it’s not that you don’t want to move, it’s that you can’t. Every instinct in us, from our ancient days when we weren’t at the top of the food chain, tell us to hide, hold still, wait until danger has passed. It’s a lot of work bypassing that self-protective instinct.
And it’s very freeing, coming out. My legal name, believe it or not, is Orland Outland. I know! In the past, I published a fair number of books under that name, and someone once wrote dismissively in passing about “someone writing under the preposterous pseudonym of Orland Outland.”
It’s funny. When “Orland” basically stopped writing years ago, I’d been putting out a series of gay romances, a genre I grew tired of. Back then, in the 1990s/early 2000s, there was no large female market for these books like there is today, so the audience, and the paychecks, were much smaller. And I got sick of writing “it” over and over, the book with two dudes on the cover, shoved into the “gay interest” section at Barnes and Noble, published in June along with every other title from a big publishing house because “June is Gay Pride Month.” Ironic, isn’t it, that here I am, writing romances again? Yes and no. I don’t need to write a query letter that pitches yet another version of “And Then They Fucked, by Biff McHotness.” The books I write now are the length I choose, the subject I choose, the title and cover and blurb I create. There’s more responsibility for getting everything right, but the freedom is worth the effort.
In ten years’ time, I labored on and off on a novel about artificial intelligence that I finally published last year to thunderous silence, “Less Than a Person and More than a Dog.” Other than that, while I republished one series of Orland’s books as ebooks, the “Binky/Doan Mysteries,” but other than that, I was content to let the rest of those titles languish in out-of-print obscurity. Until recently.
Of all the books I wrote back then, there’s only one that I’m really proud of, only one that people still read and say, “oh my God yes this.” And that book was “Different People,” the story of two young gay men, raised very differently, whose lives intersect over a twelve year period. It’s the story of an era in gay life, really. Yes, it’s a love story, but it’s not what would qualify as a romance these days.
And to mark my coming out, and because to do it requires my coming out, I’m now republishing a revised version of that book under both names. The original was a 125,000 word doorstopper, written in a very different style than I use today – too much talking, too many opinion pieces injected into the narrative, that sort of thing. But the core of the story is worth keeping, worth bringing back into the world.
Flog time: It’s available for pre-order now at this link, and available on July 13th.
So here I am, two people at once. The really funny thing is, that at this point in my life, I think of myself more as Brad than as Orland. All my Facebook friends and fans know me as Brad, my writer’s group knows me as Brad. And of course at Starbucks, when they keep asking me to repeat “Orland” for the name on my cup, sometimes I’ll give up and say “Brad.” Sometimes I even toy with changing my legal name.
You see, it wasn’t all bad, having a secret identity. Becoming Brad Vance allowed me to become someone else – someone funnier, someone sexier, and most importantly, someone who could make a fresh start, who wasn’t burdened by my past, my back catalog, my reputation in publishing as a difficult person to work with. In the beginning, nobody knew who Brad Vance really was, even me, but in the end, Brad Vance is who I am now.
QUESTION: What secret did you 'come out' about and how did it go?
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