A female Spanish thriller writer has been revealed to be three men.
TV scriptwriters Agustín Martínez, Jorge Díaz and Antonio Mercero dropped the bombshell that they were actually behind the pseudonym Carmen Mola while accepting the prestigious $1.2 million Planeta literary prize in front of King Felipe VI of Spain in Barcelona on Friday.
“Carmen Mola is not, like all the lies we’ve been telling, a university professor,” Díaz said after accepting the prize, per the Financial Times. “We are three friends who one day four years ago decided to combine our talent to tell a story.”
In previous interviews, Mola has been depicted as a married mother-of-three university professor in her late 40s from Madrid who taught during the day, wrote gruesome thrillers by night and wanted to keep out of the spotlight.
As Mola, the men have sold more than 400,000 copies of their series of violent and gory novels centered on police inspector Elena Blanco published by Penguin Random House. The Planeta prize was awarded to them for their unpublished book “The Beast” about a serial killer in cholera-hit 1834 Madrid. Planeta will publish the new work.
Critics accused the men of using their fake female persona for marketing purposes. Beatriz Gimeno, former director of Spain’s Women’s Institute, slammed the trio as “scammers” for using the faux profile “to take in readers and journalists.”
Más allá de la utilización de un pseudónimo femenino es que estos tipos llevan años contestando entrevistas. No es solo el nombre es el perfil falso con el que ha tomado a lectorxs y periodistas. Timadores.
— Beatriz Gimeno (@BeatrizGimeno1) October 16, 2021
But the three writers disputed that criticism, saying they didn’t spend long thinking up the name and would have likely given it more consideration if they had known that the Blanco series would have been such a hit.
“We didn’t hide behind a woman, we hid behind a name,” Mercero told El País. “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.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.