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October 3, 2010

What's in a name? On picking a pseudonym.

 "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

 Some authors have achieved considerable fame writing under pseudonyms; George Eliot, George Orwell, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain and more recently, Lemony Snicket spring to mind...among many others.

A pseudonym is, of course, a fictitious name or 'pen name' which an author may choose to use for a variety of reasons. Perhaps to maintain privacy by concealing their real identity; perhaps to keep identities separate when writing in more than one genre, or for more than one age-group. Perhaps so an employer or prospective employer doesn't doubt their commitment to their everyday 'paying' job.


I just thought I'd put this question out there as I'm interested in taking a straw poll of what others are doing (or plan to do). If you're already blogging, and actively building a 'writer's platform' (see my earlier post on this here), chances are you've already given this topic some thought.

I know I first started thinking about this when I was quite young, as I'd always dreamed of writing a romance novel (specifically, a historical romance). It seemed to me in my youth (and I was only a teenager at the time) that romance authors always used pseudonyms, so I should too. I compiled a long list of options, which I've continued to add to over the years, as my writing skill, and choice of writing genre, and dream of publication have changed and matured.
  • So how many of you out there in the blogosphere have chosen to 'blog' with an assumed name? If so, why?
  • Are you seeking publication, and if so, do you plan to be published under a pseudonym? (or two)
  • What are your reasons?
  • And how on earth to choose a good name?
Oh, and as I can't offer the seal of the confessional, if you don't want to come clean about your double life in public on the internet, I'll understand. Just say a 'friend' told you their reasons were as follows. Or that you've heard 'some people' do X because Y. We'd still love your thoughts. And mum's the word...

;-) 

16 comments:

Quinn said...

I've been using a pen name. I wrote two posts on my blog about this actually. One was about why people used pen names and why I wanted to. The other was about where my pen name came from.

Basically, I use a pen name because I don't like my real name. I think it's too common and just doesn't sound like me.

So far though, I've only picked part of my pen name -- Quinn. I don't know if it'll be my first name or last name, but I haven't thought of anything else to go with it yet.

erica and christy said...

Maybe christy will stop by and say why she used "Lynnea West" when she started, but for now, we go by our real first names. Both of our names are rather common in the Midwest, so you'd get millions of hits just searching for us individually.

Right now, we write YA. If I (erica) switched genres completely (suddenly wrote a thriller, horror, adult romance, etc.), I'd definitely think about using a different name to separate the two audiences, if nothing else. I don't know what it would be, but it would be much more exotic than my real name!

Adina (or whatever your name is :) we left you an award on our blog. Congratulations on your success and good luck with your future!

Serena said...

I dont use a pen name, although like Quinn i dont really like my name it is a part of who i am, and so is everything that i write. I havent really thought about if i ever got published what i would do. Id perhaps drop my first name and use a middle name as i have two of them to spare anyway. :) Oh quinn, you could just use the one name i think it would seem more mysterious.

Su said...

I started using "Su" on the internet in lieu of all my other names, although now my internet name has leaked its way into my non-internet life. Which is totally cool; it would have been a lousy pen name. All that to say, I don't really have one, but I like the idea.

Faith said...

I think I'd only switch to a pen name if I was published and then changed genres (which is one of my goals, since I like to write in multiple genres). Otherwise, I like my name and it's an uncommon last name. I can see how someone with a more common last name might want to switch, though.

Alison Stevens said...

I use my real name, at least for my non-fiction work, since that's the name I go by as a scientist. But I'm toying with the idea of a pen name for my fiction.

I have an award for you at my blog.

chicklit1028 said...

Good questions. I used to think I'd definitely take a pseudonym because my last name, while uncommon, is also kind of hard to pronounce. When I was younger, I couldn't wait to get rid of it. Funny thing though, I got older, accumulated some accomplishments, and now the name has grown on me. I didn't change my name when I got married, so I doubt I will when I publish a book.

On the internet, though, I prefer a pseudonym.

(By the way, hi! I'm new here. I found your blog through the Crusade.)

J.C. Martin said...

I posted an entry about this a while ago. My personal reason to use a pseudonym is so people can actually spell/pronounce it, as my real (and non-Western) name have been bastardised by even Asians used to the language! Imagine a reader going to a book store and not being able to pronounce the writer's name! I guess you can call it a pseudo-pseudonym, as it is really my soon-to-be-married name! ;)

A Pen In Neverland: Angela Peña Dahle said...

I use my real name....with an add on in the the middle in place of my real middle name. I chose Angela Peña Dahle, because it is my mother's maiden name. She always read to us as children and instilled in us the value of reading, writing, and learning through literature from all the good books. She had a great desire to get a good education and is always learning whether she is in school or not.I admire my mother's love for learning and for books. Also, I love multicultural fiction! Some of my favorite kidlit books are by authors of color. I love hispanic/latina literature and picture books! The last reason I chose this name is because I am proud of my Mexican and Spanish heritage but my current married name does not reveal this. I want readers to KNOW who I am, to know that where we come from, and those that paved the road before us are important because without them we would not be who we are.

A Pen In Neverland: Angela Peña Dahle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Pen In Neverland: Angela Peña Dahle said...

A side note: Peña means rock/boulder. I'd like to think I am immovable like a rock--steadfast and immovable in my writing--perseverant and always learning. Fun, and adventurous BUT concrete at the same time. My mother also pointed out that "Pen" is in Peña. How could I not like that?

Adina West said...

Thanks for all your comments!

Seems people have lots of great reasons for their decisions on whether to use a 'pen name' or not. And many have interesting stories attached to their choices too!

I think it's safe to say that names are important to most of us, whether we choose to write under our own or not...

charlotteotter said...

I started blogging long before I ever thought I would write a novel, let alone find an agent to rep it, so I've always blogged under my real name. However, I plan to publish under my birth name, which I haven't used since I got married. It has a literary ring to it: Charlotte James.

Adina West said...

@Charlotte: With a maiden name like that to draw on I can see why you wouldn't need to look anywhere else! It's exactly the kind of name pairing I'd consciously pick for a pseudonym. For some reason I quite like surnames which can also double as first names. And single syllable surnames with longer first names.

Joanna St. James said...

am just going to let everyone wonder if this is my pen or real name, think of it as me giving a journalist something to sink their teeth into.
Hi am Joanna have i told you i like to daydream

Adina West said...

Keep 'em guessing Joanna. I like it. The more famous you are, the more fantastic the stories will get... ;-)

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