Scary Mommy

A Celebrated Spanish Female Novelist Turned Out To Be 3 Lying Men

70th Planeta Novel Prize Award Ceremony
Scary Mommy and Kike Rincon/Europa Press/Getty

Carmen Mola, a celebrated thriller author in Spain, is actually three men who’ve been scamming readers and the public for years

For the last four years, Spanish thriller novelist Carmen Mola was celebrated for her work—and this year she won the coveted Planeta literary prize to the tune of over $1 million dollars. But when the author came forward to collect the money, she wasn’t a woman at all—she was three men.

Now the author’s fans, and the world at large, is reeling to make sense of the bait-and-switch and questioning the morality of selling something under false pretenses and a fake identify.

The three writers, Agustín Martínez, Jorge Díaz and Antonio Mercero, are all writers and screenwriters. They’ve explained that they weren’t trying to be deceptive or sneaky—they just wanted to write under a pseudonym. In fact, they said that they didn’t specifically mean to pick a woman at all.

Martinez claimed that the trio took “a minute and a half of throwing around names of men, women, foreigners” in an interview that appeared in the European publication El Paris and translated by Vice

“I don’t know if the feminine pseudonym sells more than the masculine one, I don’t have the faintest idea, but it doesn’t seem like it to me,” Mercero added, according to the paper. “The three of us have not hidden behind a woman, but behind a name.”

It seems like they want to dodge all accusations of pretending to be a woman to profit or cat-fishing the entire country—as they collect their seven-figure literary award.

Before coming out to tell their story, the men created Carmen Mola, a college professor with three children who wanted to remain out of the limelight. The story was heavily like that of Elena Ferrante, an internationally-famous Italian author and the creator of the Neapolitan book series, who writes under a pen name for privacy (but who is actually a singular woman).

“Carmen Mola is not, like all the lies we’ve been telling, a university professor,” Díaz said, according the Financial Times. “We are three friends who one day four years ago decided to combine our talent to tell a story.”

In just the short time that they’ve been working behind the scenes as her creator, Mola has become famous for her crime stories, which have been adapted into successful television productions and won various prizes. At no time during the writing of a trilogy of books, which were published by Penguin Random House, did the men come forward—and now many are questioning how much of their success was built on the name of a woman who doesn’t exist.

The Planeta prize was awarded to the trio for their unpublished book The Beast, which is a historical fiction thriller about a serial killer in Madrid.

Twitter quickly took to posting pictures of what they believed was the Carmen Mola trio.

Pen names and pseudonyms have always been a part of publishing. But of course, the most famous cases of gender-swapping pen names have been women using male names—because that’s the only way that they could ever be published and they only way that they could get their voices heard.

In this case, it seems a pen name was used because *waves hand around*.