Guest Post:- Jackson Marsh

Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?

Yes, I do, and there’s a simple reason. I have built up a following as author, James Collins, my real name. The thing is, the James audience is accustomed to my travel writing and my novels which are not strictly MM Romance or gay lit. All of my James Collins novels apart from one have gay characters, but the stories are not specifically gay. I wanted to create a world where just about every character was gay so that I could be free to explore more issues and characters than those accepted by my established audience. Basically, I didn’t want to confuse the older, straighter, more conventional readership of my other work, so, by inventing Jackson Marsh, I was free to do that.


As James, I was (am) writing an on-going series which starts with the mystery thriller ‘The Saddling.’ That’s a kind of ‘Wicker Man’ style mystery, and I set it in the place I was born, but in an imaginary village within it that hasn’t changed over hundreds of years. As I was writing what was essentially a family history mystery (with a thrilling climax, if I may say so), I realised that my main character was gay and struggling to come out. Because of my readership (mainly straight), I felt unable to let the MC fly, and because of that, I was unable to let my gay side fly with him. In ‘The Saddling’, I have three principal characters. One who had always been gay, one who comes to accept he is, and one who is totally gorgeous and probably gay but who hasn’t decided yet, if one can decide such things. No matter how I wanted that triangle to work out, I felt I was unable to get too ‘gay’ without alienating my audience. Therefore, I started writing new novels as Jackson Marsh. Not the same story, of course, The Saddling has now developed into three books, and a fourth is needed to complete the series, but that’s for when I need to put Jackson on pause for a while.


I have to say also that the Jackson books, being for a niche and more specific market, sell more copies.


Since Jackson came along in 2017, I have written nine novels in his name and only one in my own name. That shows me where my current priorities lie, and I have two more Jackson books lined up and in preparation for later this year. These are parts two and three of ‘The Clearwater Mysteries’ as, with these characters, I finally found a group of men I wanted to develop and take on more adventures.


People ask where Jackson Marsh, the name, came from and the answer is simple. I liked the name Jackson, and I was born on a marsh. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. In fact, Romney Marsh, in Kent, UK, was a lovely place to be born and grow up. My pen name is a kind of tribute to where I am from, though I expect people living there might raise an eyebrow if they knew; it’s a fairly conservative part of the world. You could also find a play on words if you wanted to look at the name sideways.


There is a crossover between Jackson and James however, and it’s a bit like being two people. Where James tends to be more literary, or at least, tries to be (my use of words is influenced by John Steinbeck for example, although I have yet to reach the heights of his breath-taking prose), Jackson is more straightforward in style. But, because I developed the use of dialogue and description for the James books, it has washed over into the Jackson books over time, and I now feel that I am writing as me, but finally exploring subjects and telling stories that I wanted to tell. Fear of my own readership held me back, and Jackson is pouring out while James is taking a rest.


People often assume that because you write under a pen name, you are trying to hide something. I’m not. I’m trying to bring something out, my desire to invent wonderful worlds where anything can happen and where the main characters in my mysteries and thrillers are gay. Besides, I reckon most of my James readership knows that I am also Jackson and once that word got out, sales improved. I think my ‘conservative’ readership wanted some gay titillation and boy, did they get it!