Best-selling Spanish crime author Carmen Mola was revealed to be three men after they accepted a coveted literary award.
Mola's work often features strong female protagonists and has been hailed as a "must-read" by and for women.
The trio of writers decided to use the name without considering the implications of writing under a female name.
Like a plot twist straight out of a novel, the identity of a respected female crime author was revealed - and it turns out "she" was three men.
Speculation on the identity of one of Spain's most prominent crime thriller writers, who wrote under the name Carmen Mola, ended on Friday when three men rose to accept the 2021 Premio Planeta literary prize - worth one million-euros - for Mola's currently unreleased work "The Beast."
Jorge Díaz, Agustín Martínez, and Antonio Mercero are writers in their own right, having penned numerous scripts for television between them. They decided to write under the pseudonym for no particular reason and without consideration of the name's gender.
"Carmen Mola is not, like all the lies we've been telling, a university professor," Díaz said shortly after accepting the Planeta prize, according to the Financial Times. "We are three friends who one day four years ago decided to combine our talent to tell a story."
Mola, which the trio represented as a university professor and mother of three who wrote gritty crime drama on her off-time, has been praised for "her" depiction of strong female protagonists, with her latest award-winning work focusing on the investigation of child murders in nineteenth-century Spain.
Mola's other works have also garnered acclaim, like "La Novia Gitana," which has been translated into 11 languages and will be developed into a television series. Castille-La Mancha, a branch of Spain's Women's Institute, included her book "La Nena" in a list of 50 feminist titles that help readers "understand the reality and experiences of women."
In the past, women have gone to publish works under male pseudonyms to protect their identity and dodge social biases.
"I don't know if a female pseudonym would sell more than a male one, I don't have the faintest idea, but I doubt it," Mercero told Spain's El País newspaper. "We didn't hide behind a woman, we hid behind a name."
Meanwhile, critics of the trio's actions point out the exploitative nature underlying the three men's deception.
"Beyond the use of a female pseudonym, these guys have been answering interviews for years," tweeted former Head of the Women's Institute Beatriz Gimeno. "It is not only the name, it is the fake profile with which it has taken readers and journalists. They are scammers."
"It hasn't escaped anyone's notice that the idea of a university professor and mother of three who taught algebra classes in the morning then wrote ultraviolent, macabre novels in scraps of free time in the afternoon made for a great marketing operation," reporter Leticia Blanco wrote for Spain's El Mundo newspaper.
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