The purpose of this post is to talk about why I haven’t showed my face in the past, why I use a penname, and why I’m pretty leery of giving up any personal information about myself. This post honestly won’t be too exciting other than the fact that there’s a picture of me in it (it’s pretty anticlimatic after all this mystery), but I’m writing it because these questions come up a lot—especially as I gain new readers.
To give some background on me in general, for those of you who don’t know much about me, I’ve been writing queer fiction (first fandom, then original slash, then romance) under the penname Sonny (now Santino) since…. 2000 or 2001? Maybe longer. Basically, for almost twenty fucking years. That’s out of this world to me. Especially since there are people in fandom who I still talk to who have known me for that long. Even before that, as a kid, I wrote gay erotica on Nifty.org. I’ve always wanted to write, I’ve always enjoyed telling stories I didn’t get to see anywhere, and I’ve never wanted my family or even many of my friends to know.
Even though some people close to me knew I was bisexual, there was a part of me that never wanted anyone to know about my writing. Once one thing about myself was exposed, I felt obligated to hide all the other parts that could be used against me. And writing about queer people having sex, finding love and wishful feelings of happy endings? Those things made me feel as vulnerable as being outed. Especially when people who you trust end up using those things against you. So, I learned early on to trust other queer people and other writers and readers, and I kept the friends I found close to me.
When I started writing online, I was never really a Big Name Author in fandom or in slash, and ICoS was always kind of niche (even though it has an amazing cult following). I also didn’t expect my romance to be popular. Either way, from the start, when I began writing fanfiction I knew I never wanted my real self to be tied to my online self. I didn’t want people who’d turned on me due to my sexuality to have access to my writing and my online friends. Especially since anyone who knew me back in my early days knows what a messy bitch I was online. I’m talking drunk livejournal posts, rants about my family and people I was in relationships with, and the whole nine.
Also, due to shit that happened after I was outed, I honestly had trust issues with people in general. This is basically when I made the decision to obscure my identity, to not post pictures of myself online, to not tell anyone my legal name, and to basically keep my identity (and the identity of loved ones I talked about) separate. Later, when I became a functional adult and joined the workforce, my desire to stay closeted continued. I have not even been out at work, and definitely didn’t want anyone at work gaining access to my writing or social media. Also, the more people I met online, the more I realized some folks really do not need access to my private life because they are obsessive and dangerous.
However, the things I’ve been open and honest about for the last 10+ years was that I am bisexual, I have kids, I have been married, I love NYC, I have a litany of health problems, and I am a super tall gangly white boy who likes video games, Jordans and hats. And honestly? That should be all folks need to know. I’ve changed some details about my physical appearance (like my hair color), there have been times in the past when I felt obligated to show a pic and showed a picture of a friend instead of me (with his consent! We were in a relationship, and he is also a tall gangly white boy but blond), but that’s basically it. I no longer talk about my kids, my family, people I’ve been in relationships (poly or monogamous), who I’ve had sex with, or anything else. Why? Because it has nothing to do with my books.
Was it dishonest to not show my picture? Yes, it was, and I wish I’d learned to trust people earlier than only in the past 2 years. But I felt the need to protect myself. I tend to live on the edge of “I don’t know what’s coming”. And at this point, I think I made the right decision because of some things that have happened.
There are a few people out there who have dedicated nearly 2 years to trying to dox me, to sharing personal information about me with people who then proceeded to try to dox me (and dox author friends of mine who also aren’t forthcoming with their pics or legal info online), and who have created elaborate conspiracies about why I’m secretive so they can negatively affect my career, but at the end of the day the only people who know personal details about me and my family are close friends or people I’ve done business with—agent, co-writers, publishers, etc. It’s gonna stay that way too.
Except for the fact that I recently quit my job, so I no longer give a fuck about not showing my face. So here I am in all of my basic glory! I am Santino—nice to meet you. (all pictures posted with permission of other people! Including Roan Parrish)