Since July 14th, when the news broke that she was the true author of the crime fiction novel The Cuckoo's Calling, all eyes in the world of publishing have been firmly focused on J.K. Rowling. Journalists have rushed to review the novel and to analyse why she used a pseudonym, moreover, why she used a male pseudonym. However, in the same way that magic, which was so much a part of her Harry Potter books, relies on misdirection to cover up how the trick was done, we as an audience are now so distracted by The Cuckoo's Calling that we are not looking for other books that could be out there by Rowling or other well known authors under anonymous pen names.
My sister and I often swop books or share recommendations. About two months ago she offered to lend me a book she had just read and really enjoyed. As she handed it to me she casually said, 'I think it might actually be written by J.K. Rowling under a pseudonym'. The book was called Mountains of the Moon by an author using the pen name I.J. Kay. It was the similarity between this author initials and those of the Harry Potter author that piqued her curiosity.
I immediately dismissed her theory due to the fact Rowling had just released her first adult fiction novel, The Casual Vacancy and therefore assumed any book she wrote for adults would be under her real name.
I didn't think about it again until July 14th when I learned, along with the rest of the world, that Rowling had been unmasked as the author of The Cuckoo's Calling. So, like Cormoran Strike, the private investigator at the centre of Rowling's crime fiction novel, I decided to do some detective work of my own into my sister's theory on Mountains of the Moon.
Once the rumour mill started, the first clue journalists had that Rowling might really be Galbraith is that the two authors shared the same publisher and agent. In the case of Mountains of the Moon there is no such substantial link as the same publisher but there are lots of other 'clues' besides the perhaps too-obvious pseudonym.
Mountains of the Moon follows the journey of woman trying to rebuild her life after her release from prison, with intermittent flashbacks to her turbulent childhood. Interestingly, the protagonist of this novel uses various different names as she goes through life including Kim, Beverly, Jackie, Dawn and Catherine. Her real name though appears to be Louise or Lulu as she was called as a child. Lula is the name of the legendary supermodel found dead in The Cuckoo's Calling but the more subtle clue could be in the character's need to use names as a disguise.
We are told very little about the author I.J. Kay but we do know she was born in Suffolk in 1961 and now lives between Bristol and The Gambia, West Africa. J.K. Rowling was born about ten miles north east of Bristol in 1965 which puts them in the same age bracket with ties to the same parts of the country.
Mountains of the Moon is dedicated to a climber who lost her life on Ben Nevis, the Scottish mountain range which is said to have inspired the landscape of the Harry Potter books.
These links are just some of the ones I found during my investigations and while admittedly none of them are concrete enough to attribute it to Rowling, when examined in conjunction with this statement by I.J. Kay's publisher Dan Franklin to theindependent.co.uk when the book jointly won The Author's Club Best First Novel Award in June, it's hard not to at least wonder if it wasn't written by her could it be by another well known author?
"I thought, and still think, that Mountains of the Moon is one of the most amazing first novels ever to land on my desk and I would have fought to publish it whatever the hurdles," her publisher Dan Franklin tells Between the Covers. "I suggested to the author various possible scenarios [her doing an interview with a friend whom she trusted absolutely, etc] but she rejected all of them. At that point, I knew she was serious and I respected her decision. I wrote to Ion Trewin and Bud McLintock [administrator of the Man Booker Prize and director of the Costa Prize, respectively], asking for the stipulation - that Booker or Costa authors must do publicity - to be waived. And they agreed."
A publisher asking the Man Booker Prize and Costa Prize committees to change their rules for a completely unknown, anonymous author seems a bit unusual to me. Also, like The Cuckoo's Calling, Mountains of the Moon is extremely well reviewed critically however the customer reviews are a little bit more knowing. Before Rowling was revealed as the author of The Cuckoo's Calling one customer who reviewed it on Amazon predicted that some day the author would be revealed as a famous writer. In the case of Mountains of the Moon one Goodreads reviewer takes a stab at guessing who the real identity of the author might be and throws out Irvine Welsh as a possibility. Although we are told Mountains of the Moon is I.J. Kay's debut novel, the writing suggests the author is experienced at her craft.
After all my investigation I don't think it is likely that Rowling is the author behind Mountains of the Moon but I think it is fascinating that my sister's suspicions immediately leapt to her upon reading it. Rowling is a self confessed 'compulsive writer'. Someone who cannot stop writing even if she is the world's first billionaire author so it is quite likely that there are other books by her out there under other pen names.
As a reader, the opportunity to potentially find one of them is magic in itself.
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