We all have another personality within us. Sometimes this personality escapes in a fit of rage or under some tremendous pressure. Sometimes it appears during a party or a social outing, saving us from the anxiety of being around other human beings. Sometimes our "other" personality stalks us, hiding in the shadows, waiting for that moment of weakness when it can pounce and become a part of us, taking us over.
All of these examples in some form embody what (or should I say 'who') Jon Carlin Shea is for me. Of course, Matt Campbell is alive and well. Writing is something I care deeply about, and writing fantasy, is an important part of my personality, but there's a large degree of relief associated with Jon Carlin Shea.
A NEW FACE
Anxiety, in one form or another, surrounds me in my everyday life. It's a part of who I am, and I've accepted that. In my every day life, I try to figure out ways to integrate it into my life rather than try to push it away. Jon Carlin Shea will help immensely in this area.
Writing and fantasy are huge parts of my life, and yet, I often find myself very shy in talking about it. Jon Carlin Shea puts a buffer between me and the source of my feelings. I'm no longer the dead center of attention, and I find I can still talk about this thing I love. I even feel as though I can reach out to strangers where I couldn't before because I'm Matt Campbell, a huge fantasy fan, telling someone about a fantasy author, Jon Carlin Shea. There's a degree of separation that removes the pressure, and suddenly, I'm passionate again.
Before I decided to take the name of Jon Carlin Shea, I gave myself some serious time to consider the implications. I really wanted to understand my reasons for doing it, which turned into understanding my reasons for being a writer. I write for many different reasons. I write for therapy, and I write to share my thoughts. But my biggest reason for writing is to tell stories. I love to tell stories and take people on adventures.
One day, I'd love to be successful enough to write and tell stories for a living. In order to do that, I need to practice my craft and improve it. I have to work at it all the time, but I also need readership, and in the digital age, your name can be a big deal. Matt Campbell's are everywhere. Artists, football players, physicists, and even other writers all share my name. How can I expect to be found in this digital age when I'm but one of many, many Matt Campbells? The answer was fairly simple, a recommendation from my wife (and promoter). Change my name. Create a name that's different, that no one else has, something that is searchable across the interwebs and unique. Hopefully, given time and some good writing, my reach as Jon Carlin Shea will be much further than Matt Campbell's.
THE ALTERNATE EGO
One of the biggest challenges for writing is getting into the mindset to create. Sure, I have times that I devote to writing, and oftentimes, I write during these times. However, my mind is often not in the right place, and I end up slopping out buttermilk instead of churning sweet, creamy butter. But having a pen name is a little like having an alter ego. Matt Campbell can have all sorts of crap floating around in his head, but Jon Carlin Shea has work to do.
A big part of my life is figuring out cues, both physical and mental. I work hard at recognizing when my blood pressure is going up, or when certain words I use could clue me into something I'm thinking about in the back of my mind. Mental cues are important, too. Reminding myself to think a certain way or to ask myself a question can completely reverse the onset of anxiety. The same can be true of my writing. Simply thinking to myself "I'm Jon Carlin Shea, and Book Three isn't going to edit itself" is a huge step in the right direction. It's a cue to Matt Campbell to stop thinking about the family budget and my favorite Final Fantasy game and focus on what Jon Carlin Shea needs to accomplish in a morning or an evening or writing.
In his introduction to The Bachman Books, Stephen King says some interesting things about his pseudonym:
I think I did it to turn the heat down a little bit; to do something as someone other than Stephen King. I think that all novelists are inveterate role-players and it was fun to be someone else for a while - in this case, Richard Bachman.
Writing something that was not horror as Stephen King would be perfectly easy, but answering the questions about why I did it would be a pain in the ass. When I wrote straight fiction as Richard Bachman, no one asked the questions. In fact, ha-ha, hardly anyone read the books. Which leads us to what might be - well, not the reason why that voice spoke up in the first place, but the closest thing to it.
That being said, this is the last I'll say about Jon Carlin Shea. Matt Campbell, the author of Spirit Summoner, might just step back into the shadows. Jon Carlin Shea, the author of Soul Seekers will step forward. I wonder what kind of writer he'll be, but I know for sure he will work hard at it.
SOURCE: “Why I was Bachman,” The Bachman Books 1985