We Have The Secret Actress: Now It’s Time For The Secret Author

Following on in a long line of posts which might be broadly categorised as Stuff The Guardian Made Me Think Of This Week, I’d like to make a call to arms. It’s no secret that famous writers almost actually always never read this blog, but I’m sending out a flare into the stratosphere all the same, crying out to all the blockbusting authors I can think of. Because it’s time someone blew the whistle on another industry.

I’ve never been a fan of online anonymity (see posts # 32, 87, 90, and 105-9,392), but there’s no denying that some things can only be done by those who cannot be named.

For the past few months, somebody who purports to be a Hollywood A-Lister has been writing for the Guardian under the pseudonym “The Secret Actress”. Her bio reads “The Secret Actress is an Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated actor who lives and works in LA today”.

We Have The Secret Actress: Now It’s Time For The Secret Author

So far, anonymity has allowed her to openly discuss things which, given her apparent rank, if written under her own name, could result in crippling embarrassment, vitriol, or most notably, never working again. Hence the disguise.

So far she has tackled subjects such as gender inequality (“I sat opposite a male producer last night and he didn’t even bother to hide his giant eye-roll when I asked him how the gender pay-gap might be closed”), Oscar nominations (“the result of political campaigns run with extreme precision ending up with beautiful people congratulating themselves on being good”) and sex scenes (“the hardening part was once skilfully addressed by an actor I was about to have crazy sex with, with a sanguine: “Forgive me if I do, forgive me if I don’t”’)

It’s high time we had the same from an internationally blockbusting author. I don’t care if it’s a man or a woman. Both have their issues. (Having said that, I believe female authors have more of them. Perhaps some anonymous commenters might like to disagree.)

But someone who’s at the top of their game needs to tell us the truth. Someone who’s in demand; a denizen of Prizeville, dripping in Bookers or Pulitzer nominations, the very epitome of success. The sort of person who, if speaking publicly, would be tongue-tied due to precarious relationships with the easily-offended hands that feed them.

What’s it really like? Are they happy?

We Have The Secret Actress: Now It’s Time For The Secret Author

What’s the real deal with their publishers? Their agents? Their editors? Do they believe that the book which got canned was only canned on the whim of one powerful kingpin with deep pockets who didn’t like one chapter? What happened that day in the office when they told their bosses they wanted to write in another genre?

How did they feel when they accepted the massive cheque for the movie rights and realised that both the script and the casting were going to result in the greatest turkey since Evil Thanksgiving VIII ?

Did they ever get screwed by the industry, particularly when they were starting out? Do they know authors who are treated like aristocracy for no particular reason? Does this make them angry?

We Have The Secret Actress: Now It’s Time For The Secret Author

What really happened when they hit the number one spot on the Big List? How did it differ from the myth which drives everyone on the bottom rungs? What’s it like to have the eyes of the world on your trembling fingers as you write your next book after you’ve just had the hit of the year, but your publisher’s telling you you’re in breach of contract, and your editor’s telling you you’re just a bit crap?

There are loads of writers singing haunting choruses on the world wide web these days – myself included – about what it’s really like for small-list folk who are trying to get published, or navigating shark-infested indie waters. It’s a lovely community, and new people are joining in all the time, but we’re all in the same boat, chanting much the same tune.

Am I shallow if I want to see inside that sparkly cruise liner over there? Even though it seems like it’s frequently throwing people overboard into seas it made choppy in the first place? (…and that’s enough nautical metaphors. Sorry.)

We Have The Secret Actress: Now It’s Time For The Secret Author

Much like US reality shows give us a glimpse inside the vacuous lives of people who have more money than brain cells, whereas UK showbiz news does a seemingly impossible balancing act of deifying the shiny thing and castigating it for being 7.5% imperfect at the same time, I want to have a proper look inside Shiny Successful Author Towers.

As the only way we’re going to see what it’s really like inside is if our host or hostess goes incognito, I’m calling for The Secret Author to come out of hiding, and do the world a public service by giving us some of the confessional journalism we seem to crave so much.

Feed us with the truth anonymously, without fear of being devoured. Do it in the Guardian if you like. Or even contact me directly, on this piddly little blog, and I’ll provide you with all the platform I can throw at you. I can keep a secret. Just tell us the truth.

Is it worth it?

  69 comments for “We Have The Secret Actress: Now It’s Time For The Secret Author

  1. April 20, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    A most welcome initiative. I hope someone out there is listening. Plus, any post that throws so many colorful nautical references is great.

    Oh, did I make it this time? Was I commenter #1, or did I miss my chance yet again by typing this line?

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 20, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      Nicholas, you’re A WINNER!!! Congratulations on getting the first comment in (this time). Your prize is a year’s FREE subscription to this blog. I hope you’re delighted. I certainly am, and I’m getting nothing out of it. Now go and talk to all your famous author friends and get them to spill the beans. Now. I’m not getting any younger.

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 20, 2016 at 2:22 pm

        Yay! I never win anything! I want to thank my teacher, Mrs. Crabapple, who taught me how to finger paint – a skill I use even today, when I design my book covers.

        I also want to thank other people. I’ll compile a list and return. don’t go anywhere!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sue Bridgwater
    April 20, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Reblogged this on Skorn and commented:
    I do hope this comes true…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 20, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      I would call it a major coup if it did, Sue!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sue Bridgwater
        April 20, 2016 at 5:04 pm

        You never know – nice to speculate on possible subversives – Stephen King? Sad that Terry Pratchett has gone, he might have rallied to your call 😦

        Liked by 1 person

        • April 20, 2016 at 7:37 pm

          Sad on double counts. Imagine what Terry’s articles would have been like. They too are something we’re missing sorely.


  3. April 20, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Brilliant, brilliant post. And idea, of course. I sincerely hope The Secret Author is out there and reading this – WE ALL WANT TO KNOW!

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 20, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      And I’m not even asking for commission if they go to a big newspaper which has actual readers to do it. How magnanimous is that?

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 20, 2016 at 2:25 pm

        You are truly an example to us all 😉 Seriously, though – I hope someone spots this and takes you up on it!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. April 20, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    Hmmm – well I guess it’s a great idea so long as we don’t get that ultra-smart Dublin megastar fashionista billionaire couple with the food-phobia and the teensy, tiny shoes (and everything else)… 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • April 20, 2016 at 2:04 pm

      I agree, Jan. They would be no use to anyone. You’d better hope that a host of big-time authors are beating a path to my door so I can fight off the bad ones.


  5. janelovering
    April 20, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Don’t look at me. I’m not on that billion dollar cruise liner – but I can show you around a diamante inflatable life raft, if you’re interested.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 20, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      Leave it with me, Jane. I’m not saying you’d be my second choice on the list or anything, but if a 3xx New York Times no. 1 Bestselling author doesn’t come knocking, you’re on my list. You know?

      Liked by 1 person

      • janelovering
        April 20, 2016 at 3:07 pm

        I get the message. Sigh.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. April 20, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    I’m not sure. I’m so far down the ladder, I’m looking straight up at the first rung. Top authors talking about the reality of their successful lives might be difficult for me to take in properly. It’s hard to imagine what it must be like way up there among the clouds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 21, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      Oops! Sincere apologies, Bun. (Can I call ya Bun?) Your comment ended up in spam, which is totally Akismet’s fault and not mine, as I don’t have a Successful Blogger filter (regardless of how impressed I am by your type). You have depressed me a bit, though. If you’re that far down the ladder, I am possibly in the hole beneath, gasping for a bit of daylight. Still. I get to sleep a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 21, 2016 at 4:45 pm

        Hi Tara!

        No problem about my comment ending up in your Spam filter. Akismet loves playing Russian roulette with everything I write, so it happens to me a lot.

        I hope I didn’t depress you too much with all my talk about ladders. Judging by your follower numbers, you’re definitely a good few rungs skyward of me! My blog really is very small. It’s just that those few people who follow it tend to make a lot of noise.

        Incidentally, please do call me Bun. It’s pronounced a bit oddly, though. Despite the spelling, it rhymes with soon and not sun.

        Bun 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • April 21, 2016 at 5:21 pm

          Well, from one noisy (and nosy) small blogger to another, delighted to make your acquaintance. I really enjoyed finding your blog yesterday. Don’t worry about depressing me. I’m Irish, so I kind of like it. Here’s to lots more visiting and somewhat-correct pronunciation 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          • April 22, 2016 at 3:30 am

            Hi Tara,

            It was a pleasure to discover your site too. I had fun finding out what fictional character I was.

            It was clear I wasn’t trapped in historical fiction, thank goodness, because I wear shoes. The chick-lit character sounded sweet but wasn’t much like me. All I had in common with the young adult character was my encyclopedic knowledge of salted caramel ice cream.

            I thought for a while that I was going to have to make do with being a cop in a crime novel, although I didn’t really match the bit about having above-average cultural knowledge. (I’d already used up my entire stock on the salted caramel ice cream.)

            Imagine my relief when I discovered I was a character in literary fiction, a position that gave me an entirely unsuspected amount of artistic heft. Of course, there is the down side of knowing I almost certainly don’t exist.


            Incidentally, point 8 of the literary fiction post was my absolute favorite of a very entertaining series. It was hilarious.

            Liked by 1 person

            • April 22, 2016 at 10:07 am

              I’m so glad you liked them! Point 8 in particular. That’s my favourite too. Thanks for taking a tour. Looking forward to my next visit to you to check out your back catalogue. I’ll bring the ice cream.

              Liked by 1 person

              • April 22, 2016 at 12:25 pm

                You’re always very welcome to visit. If I’m not about, just let yourself in.

                Liked by 1 person

  7. April 20, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    How fantastic that would be. A famous author talking about what it’s really like, without restraint? Sign me in.
    Though when you think about it, how sad that we’re living in a society where people can’t speak the truth, for fear of losing their job or reputation…

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 20, 2016 at 7:39 pm

      Hasn’t it always been the case Caroline? Although as a whole we seem to be even less free now in our speech than we were 50 years ago. Only humour survives to say the stuff nobody else will. That’s why I’m applying to be a professional jester. Pay is terrible, but the perks are surprising. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. April 20, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    I sure hope you get a taker on your offer. Great pondering, Tara. I want to know what an advance on a multi-book contract feels like 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 20, 2016 at 7:40 pm

      Or indeed even a multi-book contract would do some of us, Diana. Or a contract. Or a book. I find I’m getting easier to please the more I poke my nose into the dark corners of this industry!

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 20, 2016 at 9:59 pm

        Ha ha. Oh, it’s all a blast. Keep writing. I want your book 🙂 What does it feel like to have fans waiting in the wings?

        Liked by 1 person

        • April 20, 2016 at 10:36 pm

          Oh, it’s fine, really. I just keep distracting them with bad jokes and they don’t bother me much. Every now and then I throw them some doggerel. Just doing my best, you know.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. April 20, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    Hmm, this could be interesting. I tweeted in the faint hope that some successfully published author sees it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 20, 2016 at 7:42 pm

      You are hereby appointed Secret Brand Manager, Greenie. Congratulations, and thank you. I can’t pay you a thing, but I can oddly guarantee that the more you spread the message, or the more hours you put into publicity – I find 200 hours to be a good benchmark – the emotional rewards increase exponentially. Fact.

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 20, 2016 at 10:59 pm

        lol, well that’s too bad, I could use the money of a paying job. Beggars can’t be choosers though. Although, I must mention when it comes to branding and marketing… I suck! 😆

        Liked by 1 person

        • April 21, 2016 at 9:44 am

          Shhhh, don’t say that out loud! It’ll put off all the hordes of investors queuing up to line my, sorry, our pockets.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. annerallen
    April 20, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    You’re right that new writers have unrealistic ideas of what life will be like if they actually get that big publishing contract.

    I know quite a few “A-List Authors” who will tell you there IS no shiny cruise ship. Or at least the cruise doesn’t last very long.

    Jay Asher, who was on the NYT bestseller list for 3 years and has a TV series coming out was paralysed by Writer’s Block for half a decade after his first novel, 13 Reasons Why came out.

    Catherine Ryan Hyde, whose Pay it Forward was made into an Oscar-buzzed film starring Kevin Spacey, had to deal with the fact the character Spacey played was, um, black in her book. Then when the second book in her three book deal didn’t sell as well because there was no movie, she got dumped by her publisher and screwed out of millions.

    And Ruth Harris, who had a long history of NYT bestsellers when her publisher dropped her talks about this stuff a lot on our blog. Like this one on “the Heartbreak of Being Published'” http://annerallen.com/2011/10/6-prescriptions-to-cure-heartbreak-of.html

    That link may be glitchy today because we’re in the process of moving the blog again. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 20, 2016 at 10:33 pm

      I don’t know whether to call those stories great or awful, Anne, if you know what I mean, but they’re absolutely compelling. The saddest thing is that we only ever hear them now once the author is out of contract or out of the bestseller lists for whatever reason. What I’d really love to hear are the stories told by someone who’s still behind the closed doors, dishing the dirt while still in the fray. And not just their own scandal – everyone else’s too. I’m not asking for much!


  11. Ali Isaac
    April 20, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    Aw Tara! You made me read that right to the end on false pretences! I thought you had one of those A-list celebrity author thingies lined up, ready to introduce at the end of your post, but no! My hopes of finding out how it feels to have a best seller are dashed. DASHED to pieces, I tell you. But it doesn’t matter, I forgive you anyway. Sigh…

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 21, 2016 at 9:46 am

      Sorry, Ali. I know that the smell of success emanating from this blog is so potent as to suggest that my most ardent followers are all the world’s best-selling authors, but this was really only my introductory piece, as I didn’t have the time to approach them all individually. I am sorry though.


  12. therailbaron
    April 21, 2016 at 1:52 am

    From: Secret Author

    Day One At Number One;

    Brushed my teeth with money. Ate money for breakfast. Had hated Uber driver replaced by indifferent chauffeur. Wrote words, using money pen. Went to sleep. Felt cold and lonely. Poured money on bed. Still cold. Lit money in fire. Toes melted. Pain. Money. Money.
    Paying schlub down the street to write my next novel.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. April 21, 2016 at 4:45 am

    It’s a nice idea, but even if someone were to take you up on your offer there’ll be someone who will try to find out their true identity (like they did with Ms Snark who gave inside info on literary agents). At least we all have the gift of imagination: we can take the stories we’ve heard, combine it with what we want and get something like therailbaron’s story…

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 21, 2016 at 9:49 am

      Imagination doesn’t cut it in this instance, Milady, I’m afraid. Of course people will try to find out who they are – the mystery is what makes these whistle-blowers so newsworthy! But you’d have to assume that a writer skilful enough to make the Big Lists would be skilful enough to write in such a way as to not give themselves away. And in the meantime, we’d get juicy gossip and the real inside track from someone who’s still inside.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. April 21, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    Fantastic idea. I hope it’s in the Guardian or here as I can’t cope with any new regular reading commitments. Do you read every word of the Guardian? How come I’ve missed the Secret Actress? How will you know, after this request, if the author, disguised as A. Pfefferheimer, who offers to come on your blog, is the real deal?

    Liked by 2 people

    • April 22, 2016 at 9:44 am

      Not every word, just the Culture section usually. But I have donated to them, so there’s no hope for me. And don’t worry. The same secret police that investigate everyone who comments on this blog will be on the case for The Secret Author. I’m thorough if nothing else.


  15. April 21, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    I don’t know. There’s something nice about thinking that highly successful authors are really just well-programmed androids. That way when I am less successful, it’s perfectly understandable and completely outside of my control. Still, if by some miracle, I ever make it to the top, this is the first place I’ll come to expose all my thrilling anonymous android secrets.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 22, 2016 at 9:47 am

      I have it in writing, Sarah, and I’ll hold you to it (having deleted your comment by that point, obviously, because you will be anonymous). You won’t BELIEVE what I’m going to be able to pay you. Seriously. You won’t believe it.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. April 22, 2016 at 2:34 am

    Successful authors have an economic backing..while the most creative writers/reporters hardly become successful…And what you called expose is highly rated drama done by media….Correct me if I am wrong


    • April 22, 2016 at 9:48 am

      I have no intention of correcting you, tomsarah, but that doesn’t mean I can agree with you! Even I can’t convince myself that successful authors owe everything to starting capital, and I have a wildly active imagination.


  17. April 22, 2016 at 8:51 am

    Never enough nautical terms, metaphors or… stuff… Keep ’em coming.

    When I am rich and famous, I will take you up on this, Tara

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 22, 2016 at 9:50 am

      I can see that a disorderly queue is forming. Lovely. This is all going rather well. Now, if one of you could just sell a million copies of one of your books by this time next week, Graeme, it would suit me down to the ground.

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 22, 2016 at 10:22 am

        Based on the latest review, I should be at least half way there by now (but I’m not). Still I did like the quote: “selfish, shady, desperate for sexual diversions, or damaged in some way”. And that was just about the author…

        A few more reviews like that and I’m bound to hit the million sales, so I will be jostling my way to the front of the queue

        Liked by 1 person

        • April 22, 2016 at 10:46 am

          Great stuff. Quotes like that a the true path to stardom. If you like, I could go and leave you a scathing review somewhere, if you think it’d help?

          Liked by 1 person

          • April 22, 2016 at 11:20 am

            I don’t think it’s scathing I need, just something that will highlight the sordid and depraved nature of me my, lifestyle and my writing. Seems to get bums on seats (well, on something anyway)

            Liked by 1 person

  18. April 22, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Have you found anyone yet, because I’ve had an idea? Call it Plan B if Jonathan Frenzen doesn’t take the bait. (I always end up spellchecking his name; one of these days I’m going to stop, purely out of contempt.*)

    Yes, my idea: I’ll do it. I know I’m not A-list yet,but it can be an interim arrangement until I am. Let’s face it, it’s anonymous, and being a writer I already know how to make things up. (Except in my own novels which are all based on true events.)

    And by paying me up front you save money because my fees will skyrocket once I win the Nobel Prize.

    * I didn’t spellcheck his name after all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 22, 2016 at 10:04 am

      I’ve had a think about this, Chris, and I’m afraid I’m precluded by my agent* from entering into this deal, due to the up-front payment condition, as they would have to make 5% of the payment in view of the fact that they get 35% of my non-existent earnings. It’s a nice idea though. Thanks awfully.

      *not a real person

      Liked by 1 person

  19. April 22, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Sounds like a great plot for your next book, Tara.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 22, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      I happen to be an author in search of a plot at the moment, Dorothy, so I’m glad you said that!


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