In the publishing world, it is said that the promotion of the Planeta award is one of the toughest that exists. But there is nothing to one million euros can’t compensate. The writers undergo four weeks of introductions, interviews, poses, and tournées nationals to arrive at the Christmas campaign with homework done. This year, in addition, the occasional television set is added.
The reason is none other than Carmen Mola, much more than a “winner” to use. For starters, because they are actually three men. But also because the choice of the feminine pseudonym has caused such a stir that it has reached public debate and prime time. Thanks to that, they have just given the green light to a second edition without the first having yet hit the bookstores. The shortage of paper and materials is not a problem for the publishing giants.
With the two voluminous novels awarded fresh out of the oven and with no effective time to read them, the press goes to the call of the Planet. The three winners behind Carmen Mola await in a hotel room in Madrid –Agustín Martínez, Jorge Díaz and Antonio Mercero-, but also Paloma Sánchez-Garnica, the winner of the finalist. A woman with eight successful novels behind her and who has been somewhat overshadowed by her fictional partner. She takes it with humor and vigorously defends the work and the intentions of the three men, although she is well aware of who is going to grab the headlines. “I am not controversial, They don’t invite me to the Hormiguero“, he says half jokingly.
Martínez, Díaz and Mercero say that only now are they beginning to be aware of the whirlwind they have created. They understand that journalists and readers have many questions, but they are willing to answer them all. “The best thing is that when one does not feel like it, there are two more,” jokes Agustín Martínez, screenwriter of Without breasts there is no paradise or Crematorium, and separate author of two books. “Our story is very different from what people imagine,” promises the 46-year-old author.
“The pseudonym was born in a very natural way because the manuscript had to be presented to a publisher and, without any premeditated plan, we created Carmen Mola,” explains Martínez. “There is nothing Machiavellian behind,” continues Jorge Díaz, 59, screenwriter of Central Hospital with Antonio Mercero. The latter, who is also the most seasoned novelist of the group, admits that they wanted to avoid putting their three names on the cover: “I could dissuade the reader.”
But beyond that strategy and showing that “collective authorship works”, they reject that they were riding a wave of success for crime novels signed by women. “We are not aware that a woman’s name sells better. But I want to think that The gypsy bride it worked because he liked the story and not because of the name on the cover. I wish it were so simple for them, because they would be selling all of them like hotcakes “, Mercero justifies.” We didn’t want anyone to suspect and we chose a name and a biography alien to us: if we had chosen José Antonio they would have discovered us in two days “, argues Jorge Díaz. “We don’t feel like we’ve invaded any space,” says Martínez.
However, during the four years that the ruse has lasted they have occupied a niche in bookstores specialized in women’s books, they have appeared in lists in the wake of 8M and in batches of feminist novels. That Carmen Mola now disappears from those spaces seems to them “an exercise in coherence,” according to Antonio Mercero, who also believes that those offended by her disclosure are “a minority.” In any case, they regret it and assure that it was never their intention. They do maintain, however, that the pseudonym was part of “a costume game that the reader has accepted.”
Looking back, would you change anything? Perhaps their relationship with journalists, who were also involved in the game? “I would not change anything and I refer to the tests: we have done very well. All the steps, even those that seem like an error, have brought us to this place where we are so comfortable today”, describes Jorge Díaz.
They reveal that questions from the press, posing as a middle-aged teacher with three children, were answered by whoever was most available of the three. “Hence many inconsistencies, which is what we regret the most. Sometimes she was a high school teacher and sometimes she was a university teacher, or she had three children and the next day two. We should have worked more on the biography of Carmen Mola”, acknowledges Agustín Martínez .
To six hands they wrote The gypsy bride, the babe and The purple net, trilogy starring detective Elena Blanco. Now they also sign as Carmen Mola the novel that the Planet has obtained: The beast, a thriller with historical overtones set in Madrid in 1834. This novel again has very violent and bloody passages towards women, in this case towards girls. Precisely, the detail that raised suspicion among the readers of Carmen Mola about her male authorship was the treatment she gives to violence against women in the novels.
“I think it is wrong to think that explicit violence is only written by men or is male heritage. It is not true. The film Titane, Mariana Enriquez or the novel What we have left at night they are very hard and are made by women. Violence is nobody’s heritage, “explains Martínez.
“We do not consider a scene of rape or sexual violence from a female perspective. I do not agree that it is noted that a man writes it. A woman is not capable of writing that way? Not at all. I can put myself in the shoes of a woman, just as I put myself in the shoes of a murderer and I have never killed anyone. I do not understand that gender difference “, defends Jorge Díaz. His colleague Agustín believes that “there are different sensitivities between authors, but they have nothing to do with gender.”
“We have never tried to write like a woman,” they say. This does not apply to when they pretended to be Mola herself in interviews. “But that is taking fiction to the covers of the book. Even with his real name, every creator ends up making a character of himself,” concludes Martínez. They do not believe that this will make them lose readers or harm more than anonymity. Still, “one thing we have learned as screenwriters is that success is not forever.”
The night Carmen Mola’s cake was unveiled, another woman took the stage to collect the second prize, the finalist, valued at 250,000 euros. Only one vote kept her from being the main winner, but at least she has joined the ranks of women who have won a Planet award. Has done it with The last days in Berlin, his eighth book and the second set in the German capital and the prelude to the Third Reich. It is also the seventh that he has published with Grupo Planeta: it is one of the label’s best sellers.
“I do not think that the controversy of Carmen Mola has harmed me. It would annoy me if they believed it, but they have a lot of mental balance. The controversy is good: there has never been so much talked about the Planet as this year. And there is my novel, which is it complements very well with theirs. If the reader likes the winner, it is very likely that they will come to mine. And vice versa. We need good books and great sales to motivate people to read, “he defends.
Regarding the imbalance between men and women on the planet, he believes that it is because “there are many of us and we tread very hard, but we still have a way to go.” He mentions Dolores Redondo, María Dueñas, Luz Gabás and Eva García Sáenz de Urturi as “powerful names”. He emphasizes that they are all “talluditas” because he claims maturity and experience in writing. She started after getting married at 19, having her two children at 23, studying two majors – Law and History and Geography – reading a lot and hanging up her gown. “At 21 I would have hit it,” he assures, because it takes patience and discipline that he lacked then.
But the wait was worth it: his greatest successes have been The three wounds (2012), The sonata of silence (2014), which TVE adapted into a series, My memory is stronger than your forgetfulness (2016) and, above all, Sofia’s suspicion (2019), which has sixteen editions. “Whether a novel works or not depends on many factors: there are real mess in bookstores and great books in drawers.”
“You have to start looking at the stories more than the name of the author,” he claims. “You have to make room because you do good literature, not because you are a woman,” he advises. She asks to get rid of prejudices, both at the editorial level and at awards: “They don’t have to publish me, nor do they have to give me the Planet because I’m a woman, but because I make good books.”