When I was writing my first book, Loonie to Toonie, I had a lot of anxiety about publishing. Writing a finance book was a huge undertaking for someone who wasn’t an “expert,” and I felt a lot of responsibility to make it as accurate as I could. It took me numerous attempts over a period of five years before I figured out how to write the book. And once I did, I thought, “Okay, there’s no way I can do this.”
Still, I had the urge to try. The only way I felt I could do it was if I wrote it as someone else—not as a person with an alter ego, but under an alter identity. I took the letters of my name and scrambled them. Then I wrote out different name combinations and came up with Jeana Deal. I always felt more like a “Gina” than a Donna, so with my given letters, “Jeana” worked. And I like deals—who doesn’t? I’m also a huge fan of Kim and Kelley Deal of The Breeders, and their catchy indie rock songs energized me as I wrote the book.
With that, I was able to write and finish the book, thinking the whole time I’d remain this anonymous, enigmatic figure. I naively thought that once I published it, I could promote it online without having to enter the public sphere. I was so wrong. People often want to know the person behind the book, and when you market your book, so much of that is about promoting you. If you want your books in stores and libraries, you have to do appearances on radio shows, podcasts, book events, and speaking engagements. You can’t do any of these things anonymously without coming off like an anarchist. I was already all in at that point, so the only choice I had was to roll with it.
One thing I didn’t anticipate was how terribly uncomfortable I’d be making myself known to the public. I hardly “share” in social media at all, so imagine my reluctance in putting my face all over my website and promotional material. On top of that, my pseudonym, unexpectedly, made it a thousand times worse. Look at my author pic. I’m not just ethnic—I look all kinds of ethnic. I could blend in half the countries in the world, even though I’m Filipino (yes, both parents). So what am I doing with a white name? No offence white people. I like you guys, but the last thing I want to try to be is white or achieve white status. It’s tough enough being a minority in subtly racist Commonwealth Canada, but it only got better for me (though not easier) once I embraced my brownness. Back to my point. I felt like a fraud using that pseudonym, even though it was derived from my real name.
Now I’m married, and I’ve assumed my husband’s last name, making me a “Mrs.” Going forward, I’ll be dumping Jeana Deal and writing as Donna Fernandez: still self-conscious about being in the public eye, but thanks to my name, more comfortable with putting my writing out there for all to enjoy.