Why I Killed Ravis Harnell

As some of you know, over the past couple of years I’ve self-published several digital works of horror fiction under the pseudonym Ravis Harnell. (Some of you may even remember that Ravis first came to life back in the mid-’90s as a music critic and columnist–some of my first published pieces carried that byline.)

Up until a few days before Thanksgiving, Ravis had his own website and press notices, along with a respectable number of Twitter followers.

And then I killed him.

I didn’t put a whole lot of conscious thought into whether or not I should retire the pen name I’ve employed off and on for a decade and a half, but I didn’t do it on a whim, either. It was more like something was slowly curdling in the back of my mind, and when I finally had a minute to take a look around and see what that smell was, it turned out to be Ravis. I realized I was just done with him.

For one thing, it was kind of a pain in the ass maintaining two “professional” identities, even if one of them was largely online. I wasn’t going far out of my way to try to create a fake person–this is the age of the Internet, and anyone who wanted to could confirm Scott Harrell was Ravis Harnell in about five minutes–but little things like making sure I was sending stuff from the right Twitter account or email address could be irritating. (OK, so maybe not remembering to do that was what got irritating.)

For another, over the last year or so I’d been introduced to inspiring writers like Chuck Wendig and Richard Kadrey, penmonkeys (to use Wendig’s term) who juggle freelance gigs and journalism experience and fiction writing without seeing any need to compartmentalize their work. They made me realize I don’t have to differentiate my fiction writing from my other stuff. I didn’t use Ravis because I feel like I’m slumming when I write horror or because I didn’t want the folks who paid for my columns to know I’m an aspiring novelist. In fact, the reasons why I used Ravis got flimsier and foggier as time went on, to the point at which I decided I really didn’t have any reasons at all.

And, to be honest, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the book Ravis was writing when I offed him. I really appreciate the kudos and positive comments the story was receiving (I was publishing it in installments for free on Ravis’ site), and hell yeah I thought it had its moments. But it wasn’t giving me the same thrill I got working on Ghostwriter or some of the short stories; it wasn’t what I WANTED to be writing. And that’s what his writing had always been for me–the stuff I wrote to get myself off, after a day of writing copy or cranking out the odd less-than-satisfying column or whatever.

And if Ravis wasn’t doing that for me, then what was he good for, right?

Thanks to everyone who read Ravis, particularly those who were moved enough to respond with comments good or bad. His stuff is still up for sale and/or for free at various outlets, and there might be some posthumous stuff laying around my various hard drives that could see the light of the day at some point. For now, however, I’ve got too many ideas making my own brain itch–and they’re too good to hand over and let that asshole take all the credit.

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