And Who Are You Again?


noun /ˈso͞odn-im/ 

pseudonyms, plural

  • A fictitious name, esp. one used by an author

There usually comes a point in most careers where you think ‘Do I really want my own name on this?’ Now, there are many reasons that a writer might think that. It could be a change in genre, it could be social reasons, it could be because their own name is the same as someone who is already (in)famous, it could be that their name is hard to say or spell, or it could just be because they want to.

It’s personal choice and many writers do it.

Mark Twain, Lemony Snickett, Cassandra Claire, Stan Lee, Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, CS Forester, James Herriot, Robert Jordan, James Tiptree Jr. All pen names.

Stephen King wanted to know if he could replicate his own success, or if his books were just selling because if his name and so he wrote and published several novels as Richard Bachman until he was discovered by a fan who noticed the similarity.

Sophie Kinsella was already a successful novelist writing under her maiden name of Madeline Wickham when she submitted a novel under the name ‘Sophie’ to her own editors, who had no idea and signed ‘Sophie’ up.

Other writers use a pen name to distinguish between genres. Anne Rice, most known for her vampire fiction, used the name A.N. Roquelaure when she started to publish erotica, and also used the name Anne Rampling.

Robin Hobb is the pen name novelist Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden uses when writing high fantasy, she uses the name Megan Linholm for more contemporary fantasy works.

Sometimes a writer chooses a pen name to make it more appealing to readers. In the past male writers were taken more seriously, and many women chose to write under male names. Mary Ann Evans is better known to readers as George Eliot, while the Bronte sister, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, wrote under the names Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell respectively .

Sometimes writers choose a pen name to conceal and identity. Andy McNab is a pen name, used to conceal the identity of the solider who wrote, among other books, the non-fiction ‘Bravo Two Zero.’

Some writers share a pen name, like writers CT Adams and Cathy Clamp who write as Cat Adams. Or Rob Grant and Doug Naylor who wrote as Grant Naylor.

Writers have a variety of reasons for choosing a pen name, but thought should also be given as to what name you choose.

For instance, it’s probably not a good idea for a serious literary writer to go by the name Chesty McBoob, while Max Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff might be a bit of a mouthful for a children’s writer. Although, knowing kids they would probably get a kick out of saying it. (I’m told it’s pronounced Wolf Shey gul Stine Haus Berg a dorf, just in case you were wondering)

It’s common for writers in genres like science fiction and thrillers to write under a male name, or initials as readers of these genres seem to respond better to a masculine name on the cover. In much the same way that many chick-lit readers might balk at a distinctly masculine name on a cover.

So, how to choose. Well, here’s the fun part. I like to play around with name generators, and my current favourite is over at Behind the Name I like it because it has options for ethnicity, history, mythological and several other choices, including ‘rapper’.

Today I got : Master-T MacKilla Kool which I’m sure will look just lovely on the cover of my next children’s book.

So, for whatever reason you chose to, or not to use a pen name, think it through before settling on a name that might come back and bite you on the ass one day.

This is Master-T out. Word!


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