Friday, March 22, 2013

PEN NAME, PSEUDONYM, NOM DE PLUME…


Most writers toy with the idea of taking a pen name at one time or another. Whether it’s because your name is unpronounceable (Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski aka Joseph Conrad) or because of bias against your gender in the genre in which you write (Alice Bradley Sheldon, who wrote SF as James Tiptree, Jr.), there are as many different reasons for writing under a pen name as there are, well, pen names.
 
Maybe your last book didn’t do so well, for instance. You might want to ditch the sales history by starting fresh under a new name. Some writers prefer to write their naughty stories under a pen name. Dean Wesley Smith wrote an article on pen names that gives a brief history of pen names and expands on the many reasons a writer might choose to use one.
 
So far, I have only one pen name: Emma Faraday. And it’s clearly not a secret. I decided to create a pen name to keep the different genres in which I write separate. Under Emma Faraday, I publish science fiction and fantasy. Under Marcelle Dubé, I publish mostly mystery. Using different names gives the reader a clue to the kind of story he or she can expect. That way, a reader looking for some of my fantasies won’t pick up one of my mysteries by mistake and be disappointed.
 
Writers, do you use pen names (that you’re willing to divulge)? Readers, are you aware of all the pen names of your favourite writers?
 
Below, I’ve compiled a quick list of pen names and the real names of the writers. Feel free to add to it! 
 
Pen Name                  Real Name
Acton Bell                           Anne Brontë
Currer Bell                          Charlotte Brontë
Ellis Bell                              Emily Brontë
Boz                                      Charles Dickens
Lewis Carroll                      Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
Richard Castle                   Richard Alexander Rodgers
George Eliot                      Mary Ann Evans
O. Henry                             William Sydney Porter
Hergé                                  Georges Remi (Belgian writer/artist of the Tintin series)
George Orwell                   Eric Arthur Blair
Lewis Padgett                    Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore (husband and wife team of SF writers)
J.D. Robbs/Jill March       Nora Roberts
Lemony Snicket                 Daniel Handler
Barbara Vine                      Ruth Rendell
 


13 comments:

B.E. Sanderson said...

Great post. I'm not published yet, but I do write in several different genres, so yeah, I've thought about pen names. And I'm still undecided about whether when I finally get published to continue to use my initials or go ahead and plop my real first name in there.

Don't forget Mark Twain = Samuel Clemens. And for a couple less famous writers: Seanan McGuire is also Mira Grant, and Elizabeth Spann Craig is also Riley Adams. =o)

Elise Warner said...

The name I write under is the name I took when I joined Actors Equity. I was going to use my husband's name but someone had that professional name and two Union members of Equity can't have the same name.

Intersting post. At one time ballet dancers all chose Russian names and people changed theri names to get jobs because of prejudice.

Anne Marie Becker said...

I'm still building my writing career in romantic suspense, so I write only under that name (Anne Marie Becker), but I have a couple ideas picked out for when I branch out into other genres. ;)

Marcelle Dubé said...

Thanks for dropping by, B.E. and for the additional pen names. Good luck with your career, no matter what name you choose!

Elise, I didn't know that about you -- how cool! And yes, people pick different names for many different reasons, including prejudice.

Anne Marie -- just let us know if you start writing under a different name, eh.

Rita said...

YOU'RE Emma Faraday? LOL!
I use my real name. I have enought problems coming up with character names much less a pen name.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Rita, you mean there's more than one Emma Faraday...? :-)

Paula said...

Good idea for a post. For some writers, it's very important to keep separate their genres. So far in my own experience, it's actually been an asset to have my work in different genres appear without fussing about using pen names. The primary benefit has been being able to thump any or several of my books onto a table in front of some dismissive jackass and watch them backpedal.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Thanks for dropping by, Paula. I have trouble imagining *anyone* trying to dismiss you!

Clare London said...

I always remember my hairdresser confessing to me her name wasn't Sandra - as I'd been calling her for years - but there was another Linda (or whatever it was) already in the salon, so she had to change hers to avoid confusion in bookings LOL.

I've got a women's fiction name - Ava Merrick - but that side of my career hasn't really gone anywhere yet.

I'm still waiting to launch a career with my spoof-stripper name :)

batgirl said...

I thought hard about a pen name, since my real name is the secret identity of a costumed crimefighter. But when I needed to register a domain I just went with my initials instead. I have a couple of potential pen names tucked away, just in case.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Clare, how did you feel when you found out that Sandra was really Linda? Did it make you doubt everything she had ever told you...?

Batgirl, I suspect initials work just as well as a pen name, but I guess that depends on how secret you need your identity to be. :-)

Robert Runté said...

I've used pen names twice, once as the editor of a newsletter, just so it wasn't so obvious that I was writing everything in each issue myself; and once to reinvent myself. In that latter case I had attracted a lot of detractors as a reviewer/critic and thought, "gee, if only I could start over and not make all the mistakes I made the first time round, people wouldn't hate me so much". But turned out, they attacked the pseudonymous me just as much as the real me -- though it was fun having my pseudonym argue with me over issues in print. So in the end concluded that it wasn't me so much, or even the theories I was espousing, as that there are a lot of trolls out there that are going to trash whatever you have to say, and not to worry about it. So just using my real name these days.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Robert, it's a fine name by which to stand. Trolls be damned.