Fans of British novelist Jessica Blair got a pretty hefty surprise this week as the writer behind her 22 romance novels was revealed to actually be an 89-year-old man.
Blair’s true identity belongs to Bill Spence, a prolific writer and grandfather who has penned 22 Jessica Blair novels since 1992. Although Spence has never been completely secretive about using a pseudonym, the man behind the literary curtain is getting renewed attention with this week’s release of his 22nd Blair book.
According to NBC News, Spence’s reason for publishing his popular novels under a female pen name came under the advisement of his publisher. When Piatkus accepted the author’s first historical romance saga years ago, they suggested using the name Jessica Blair.
In a 2010 podcast interview with Britain’s Southside Broadcasting, Bill Spence expressed his feelings about using a pseudonym:
“Well when I first wrote the first Jessica Blair novel, The Red Shawl, it was submitted under my own name. The publishers said ‘We like this book but we would like to publish it under a female name. Would you mind if we published it under Jessica Blair?’ Well, you don’t say no to publishers. The chief character is a woman, and ladies buy more books and read more books than men do. So it was a marketing ploy, really.”
An article by The Daily Mail writes that Spence, began his literary career writing westerns, publishing 36 books between 1960 and 1993. Spence then turned to romance, thus giving Jessica Blair a place in the literary world.
Spence, a grandfather of four, finds romance writing to differ greatly from the process he used for penning westerns:
“It is very different writing romantic novels as opposed to westerns. For one thing, romantic novels are a lot longer, about 100,000 words long, while westerns are about 45,000. I would never go back, I am too used to writing romantic fiction now, but I learnt a lot writing westerns.”
The romance novelist, who lives in Ampleforth, North Yorkshire, spends close to nine months completing each Jessica Blair book. The latest offering in the series, titled Silence of the Snow, is in bookstores now.