It’s April; the snowdrops have bloomed and died off, my apple tree is pushing out its first tender leaves, daffodils are still in full bloom and one brave tulip creates a vivid splash of red. Now the common name is tulip, but a gardener knows this plant as a member of the family of Liliaceae, of the genus, Tulipa, of which there are approximately seventy-five wild species. So before you start to wonder if this blog has morphed into giving gardening advice, I’m just making a point about today’s topic: pseudonyms.
The list of writers who have written using names other than their own is long. Howard O’Brien, Stanley Leiber, and Mary Ann Evans wrote under the pen names of George Elliot, Anne Rice and Stan Lee. Mark Twain, George Orwell, Dr. Seuss, are among many others who made the same decision.
There are several reasons why someone makes this choice. Mary Evans chose a male nom de plume because she lived during an era where the public took men’s writing more seriously. The Bronte sisters also published under men’s names. To ensure a wider audience (as requested by her publisher) Nora Roberts adopted the gender neutral J. D. Robb. And if you think this doesn’t apply today, consider Joanne Rowling, whose publisher said her series would be more popular among boys if they thought the writer was a man. Rowling used her initial J, adding a K she didn’t possess, and became the J. K. Rowling we know today.
The English crime writer, John Creasey wrote over six hundred novels using twenty eight pseudonyms. He was a fast writer, and wanted to get his books out to the public quicker than the publishers allowed under his own name. Stephen King used the pseudonyms Richard Bachman and John Swithen, for a similar reason. The publishing standard of the day was one book per author per year, and King, like Creasey, writes at a prolific rate.
Adoption of a more user friendly name when a writer’s real name is difficult to pronounce correctly is another reason for using a more straight forward name. The real name of the French writer Voltaire was Francois-Marie Arouet, which is slightly more than a mouthful, and bound to be mispronounced by anyone not familiar with the French language.
A successful author may attempt a different genre, but success isn’t guaranteed as readers may not follow, so writing under another name works to attract a new readership. Patricia Highsmith, author of the dark thriller, The Talented Mr Ripley, wrote a lesbian romance, The Price of Salt, under the name Claire Morgan.
Some people are intensely private; Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird), and J. D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye) disliked the amount of publicity their books brought them. Charles Dodgson refused mail delivered to his Oxford offices addressed to his pen name of Lewis Carroll.
Using a pen name offers the boon of anonymity to anyone wishing to protect family and friends, and to those wishing to keep their day job (say school inspector) separate from their life as an erotic fiction writer. Re-inventing yourself can be liberating.
Writing under a pseudonym is neither right nor wrong, and each individual makes this decision for their own reasons. As with all writing, you work in a way that is most comfortable for you. And as Juliet said up on that wee balcony: What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
The current WIP is asleep, if restless, and I’m researching Create Space, and trying out different covers for An Unstill Life. The first chapter of Paradise Unknown (working title of 2012’s nano effort: soft sci-fi) is almost edited and ready for my beta readers – the plan of putting the book up on Wattpad, one chapter per month, is gradually becoming an achievable goal.
Last week I posted two short stories on Wattpad - a roller coaster process. The slow build up of preparation led to a moment of sheer nerves when questions buzzed mosquito-like round my brain. Do I really have the courage? Can I handle it if no-one likes my stories, or is it worse if nobody reads them? I blinked, pressed the publish button and it was done.
The short story, Cockney Caper, is my first foray into crime writing (contains swearing) and can be found at: http://www.wattpad.com/story/14282658-cockney-caper
Space Glitch, is a sci-fi flash fiction piece and you can read it at: http://www.wattpad.com/story/14145622-space-glitch
In case you’ve not come across Wattpad, it's a free website for writers and readers, and a great way to gain exposure – and feedback - thank you so much +David Anson for your wonderful comment! I’d be very happy if anyone toddled over to Wattpad and read either, or both, of my offerings.
I’m editing a couple of romance short stories (no swearing) I wrote a while back, mulling over how to improve them before publishing. So I’m busy, busy and enjoying writing and most of the stuff that goes with it!
what is memory -
making lots of love
Both these links contain more info on writers who used pseudonyms.
And in case you missed the link to my two stories...
Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku
Thanks for visiting my blog, and please do leave a comment.
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.
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