Once upon a time, I was a nineteen-year-old kid that started writing a book that would ultimately take four years to finish. When I did finish it, I let it sit on my hard drive, before I heard of this thing called self-publishing and decided to give it a try.
The unedited first draft of “The Divinity Bureau” was available for a month on Amazon as an e-book before it was pulled off and I decided to pursue traditional publishing. A year later and several rounds of edits later, it was published under Asset Creative House.
I was hoping that, given the short window, I could just forget about that version; but alas, given the rise in publicity in The Divinity Bureau, I’ve come to realize that the internet doesn’t forget.
In publishing, it’s not uncommon for books to go through developmental changes before it hits the market; those changes include style, structure, pacing, and characterization. As any writer knows, first drafts are always confusing and messy; most are fortunate enough to not have theirs posted on the internet.
So, to clarify, I, Tessa Clare, am the same person as Tess Alley. (My name also wasn’t inspired by Cassandra Clare – I’ve been going by Tessa longer than Clockwork Angel has been around and dealing with ‘Clare’ being misspelled by relatives throughout my entire life). If you bought the version that was published in September 2017, you are reading the results of years of hard work, sweat, blood, and tears.
That version is what was featured in USA Today.
That version is what debuted at #27 in the dystopian category on Amazon.
It took literally rewriting the book from scratch, building the world, changing some character’s around, doing massive research on futuristic technology, switching the point of view from third-person to first-person, and learning a lot of hard lessons along the way.
I guess that brings me to the last frequently asked question: is “Tessa Clare” also a pen name? I’ll be honest: in a way, it is. My nationality is Filipino American, so my full name is incredibly long. My full name is also incredibly personal to me. Since I was seventeen, I’ve kept my full name off the internet. I went through some severe physical and emotional abuse when I was younger, and as a result, I have some very real fears about my family someday finding me. For as long as I’ve had a social media account, I’ve hidden my last name by replacing it with my middle name, Clare (it’s made things a little confusing, as sometimes my friends would ship me packages under my pseudo-last name/actual middle name!). Maybe someday, I’ll have a big reveal on what my full name actually is (hint: it’s really long, and no one will be able to pronounce it).
But to be honest, going under the pseudonym of Tess Alley felt completely inauthentic to me. I don’t think you realize how important a name is until you’re starting to go by something else. I know some writers are able to pull off having multiple, but I’m just not one of those people.
And that’s one more lesson: the more you dive into your writing career, the more you learn about what works for you. Sometimes, what works for everyone else isn’t what works for you.