Today I am so pleased to welcome Anna Zabo to Joyfully Jay. Anna has come to talk to us about their latest release, Counterpoint (Twisted Wishes #2). Anna has also brought along a great tour wide giveaway. Please join me in giving them a big welcome!
The Secret Identity Trope and Finding Wholeness
I wanted to dig into one of the tropes I used in Counterpoint, which is the idea of a secret or hidden identity. It’s where someone famous or royal ends up disguised as a commoner. It’s Clark Kent and Superman. It’s the Crown Prince who’s slumming it off somewhere remote where no one recognizes him. Or the Rock Star no one recognizes out of context.
In Counterpoint, the protagonist, Dominic Bradley, leads a double life. In his stage persona, Domino Grinder, he’s the guitarist for the hit rock band Twisted Wishes. Domino is louder than life, tattooed to the hilt, wears makeup, leather pants, and boots that could do bone-crushing damage and is extroverted to the hilt.
In contrast, Dominic is reserved. Wears glasses. Prefers button downs and bowties and really nice men’s shoes. He’s quiet and shy—tame, even. He’d rather be reading or visiting museums. Growing up, he was never, ever, the type to get up on stage for anything. At least not without having serious anxiety about it (including panic attacks).
But Dominic loves music. He loves playing guitar—and he damn good at it. Was, even back in high school when his best friend Ray asked him to be a part of his band. And when he was on stage, all the noise and worries went away. It was just getting up onto the stage he couldn’t do. Not as geeky, dorky Dominic, even if it was a central aspect of who Dominic was and is.
So he invented Domino, this outward persona that Dominic, can slip into and be the rocker he needs to be, that the world sees—while still being that geek in the button-downs who likes sipping wine and reading books. And who occasionally hooks up with men, which is something that rocker Domino decidedly doesn’t do (he doesn’t hook up at all).
Dominic gets away with this deception for a lot longer than he probably should, partly because he’s usually careful not to show too much of his tattoos—even during hookups—and partly because no one expects Domino to be this twink of a man, so they don’t recognize him out makeup, leather, and context.
It’s kind of like when you run into someone you only see at work and you don’t recognize them right away because your frame of reference is cube farm and not community swimming pool (or wherever).
But working on posts about this book got me thinking about why I love this trope so much. Why I enjoy exploring the masks people wear to get through life, these different personas folks slip into—whether it be donning a certain type of clothing for work versus clothes to relax in at home, or dressing to the nines for a fancy expensive meal out when we’re just as comfortable in shorts and T-shirts in a dinner. Or thinking about the folks who do historical reenactment, cosplay, or who are furries in their spare time. Hobbies where taking up a persona is normal.
I do think we all have personas or masks to some extent. We do present different parts of ourselves to different people in different ways. Some are very subtle. Some can be quite false, but we wear them to survive (and there’s no shame in that). Some may be truer than we realize at the time we put them on.
Sometimes all are bits of the truth.
In my own life, I realized that the person I presented to the world and the person I was on the inside didn’t always mesh. I’m non-binary. Trans masculine. I kept trying to be a woman because that’s what I was told I was. I either went overboard (ala a Mary Kay phase that was so uncomfortable) or I simply felt like I was being a woman wrong most of the time.
Spoiler: I’m not actually a woman, and that was part of the problem.
But, not all the aspects of that past me were false or fake or a show. In fact, most wasn’t. I’m still the geek I’ve always been. I still love cats and board games and musicals. I still write (I can’t stop writing). I’m still a dork at heart. People who have known me since high school or college pretty much said “Oh, yeah. That makes perfect sense” when I came out. Because that masculine part of me was always there, I just didn’t know what to do with it until recently. I’ve finally figured out how to live more authentically. There’s a wholeness about my life now.
And perhaps that’s why I’ve always loved the secret identity trope—because quite often the one with the secret identity also learns that both identities hold pieces of the truth. And certainly Dominic comes to realize he’s not two people. Neither of his personas are particularly false, and by meshing pieces of who he truly is, he can find happiness and love.
It’s only in retrospect that I realized I slipped a bit of my own trans experience into Domino/Dominic. It’s an allegory—certainly not a perfect mirror at all—but just as lot of Dominic’s struggles with anxiety are pulled from my own, I do think part of his struggle to be whole is a glint of my own journey. </span>
Twisted Wishes lead guitarist Dominic “Domino” Bradley is an animal onstage. But behind his tight leather pants and skull-crusher boots lies a different man entirely, one who needs his stage persona not only to perform, but to have the anonymity he craves. A self-imposed exile makes it impossible to get close to anyone outside the band, so he’s forced to get his sexual fix through a few hot nights with a stranger.
When computer programmer Adrian Doran meets Dominic, he’s drawn to the other man’s quiet voice and shy smile. But after a few dirty, demanding nights exploring Dominic’s need to be dominated, Adrian wants more than a casual distraction. He has no idea he’s fallen for Domino Grinder—the outlandish, larger-than-life rock god.
Dominic is reluctant to trust Adrian with his true identity. But when the truth is revealed prematurely, Dominic is forced to reevaluate both his need for Adrian and everything he believes about himself.
Anna Zabo writes contemporary and paranormal romance for all colors of the rainbow. They live and work in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which isn’t nearly as boring as most people think.
Anna grew up in the wilds of suburban Philadelphia before returning to their ancestral homelands in Western Pennsylvania. As a child they were heartily disappointed to discover that they couldn’t grow up to be what they wanted (a boy, a cat, a dragon), so they settled on being themself whenever possible, which may be a combination of a boy, a cat, and a dragon. Or perhaps a girl, a knight, and a writer. Depends on whom you ask. They do have a penchant for colorful ties and may be hording a small collection of cufflinks.They can be easily plied with coffee.
Anna has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where they fell in with a roving band of romance writers and never looked back. They also have a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.
Anna uses they/them pronouns and prefers Mx. Zabo as an honorific.
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