Female author Mola revealed to be three men at €1m prize ceremony

Female author Mola revealed to be three men at €1m prize ceremony

Carmen Mola, a female novelist who won a €1m (£840,000) Spanish literary prize last week, has been revealed as a pseudonym for three men.

Mola, who is published by Penguin Random House in Spain, was awarded the Planeta Prize at a ceremony in Barcelona on 15th October for her historical thriller The Beast. While Mola was known to be a pseudonym, supposedly for a professor and mother to maintain her anonymity, it came as a surprise for audiences when three men ascended the podium to claim the award. 

The writers behind Mola were in fact Jorge Díaz, Agustín Martínez and Antonio Mercero, all established Spanish television scriptwriters in their 40s and 50s. The Financial Times reported that on winning the award Díaz said: “Carmen Mola is not, like all the lies we’ve been telling, a university professor...We are three friends who one day four years ago decided to combine our talent to tell a story.”

The men said they chose the name by chance and for fun, without thinking about the gender of the name or any possible implications. Mercero told Spain’s El País newspaper: “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...We didn’t hide behind a woman, we hid behind a name.”

However, the author page for Mola on their agent’s website includes a black-and-white photo of a woman with her back turned to the camera. The revelation that Mola is in fact three men is particularly unusual as in the past many women published under male pseudonyms in an attempt to get published due to biases against female writers. 

Mola is best known for her trilogy of novels starring police inspector Elena Blanco, published by Penguin Random House, which have been translated into 11 languages and are being adapted for television by Endemol Shine and ViacomCBS International Studios. 

However, in a further twist, the prize's organisers said there was a “pseudonym behind a pseudonym”. The Beast was submitted under the pen-name Sergio López, which was then revealed to be Mola, and subsequently unveiled as Díaz, Martínez and Mercero. The prize is awarded to an unpublished manuscript, which, as part of the terms, must be produced by Planeta Group’s publishing house.