Jim McGovern, the big boss of the small publishing house I’m writing for, wrote this blog post, musing about authors and their mysterious pen names. Why do we have them? Well, he proposes the obvious: going for the other gender’s target audience, or hiding your true identity, or there already being someone with your name writing stuff out there.
And then I got to this part, which I’ll quote:
Some of our authors at BigWorldNetwork.com use pen names, and I never ask why. It really isn’t my business as a publisher.
Well, in my case it’s clear, but I’m taking this as a challenge to reply. My nom de plume is a more readable version of my real name, obviously. My real name’s perfectly fine in Romania where you have about a lot Chirilă people running about, including an annoying musician. Romanians can pronounce my name just fine. But foreigners, well… their struggles are funny, but usually off the mark. So calling me Kiril is fine. Say it out loud and it’ll probably be similar enough to my real one (Kiril-uh) that I might recognize myself.
Now, my editor’s name is Amanda Meuwissen, and that’s the name she writes under, because she’s a bit evil, I’d wager. I had to listen to her reading her series to figure out what I was supposed to call her in my head: May-vessen. I kept calling her Mew-vise-en.
So, anyway, Amanda writes a series called Incubus, which she also narrates. It’s a nice, romantic, and adventurous sort of series which at some point reaches a steamy sex scene or three. Which she narrates. See, that’s another reason to choose a nom de plume: not ever letting your family find out what you did, especially if what you did was write stuff that might be classified by older family members as “erotica”, but said as a four-letter word beginning with “p”. She didn’t choose a nickname, and I didn’t either despite writing some questionable stuff myself, but then again no matter how damned proud I am of Flight from Hell, I have not given dad the link to my story. He’s not really into reading, which is part of why I’m not using a nickname (and I run from mum whenever a new episode comes out).
Jim mentions something else in his blog post: JK Rowling writing mystery novels under a nickname to disassociate those novels from Harry Potter. Which is fine for her, since she’s very rich and successful and need never earn any money again, but without her fame, one of her new novels barely sold 1,500 copies in hardback in the first few months. Once she revealed that Robert Galbraith was her, sales skyrocketed, obviously.
And that’s one reason against nicknames, or against switching between them: spread yourself too thin and it’s like you’re a new writer again and again and again.
Roxana Kiril. Here’s my writer’s name, both real and fake, neither loved by me, nor unloved. When sending in the first episode of Flight from Hell, I considered calling myself something special. Hell, no, even before that I spent a long time wondering what name to choose as an author. Should I invent something? Something pretty, with a lot of ‘a’s and not much krl-ness. I came up with some ideas, and some were great and elegant and suave. I loved them, and they loved me back. Except, unfortunately, I am a person who finds it very hard to commit to things such as names (or initial plots, for that matter: Amanda never commented on how I strayed from the summary I sent her last summer).
No, I decided, I’d rather my pen name was following me around, forcing me to keep it.
Now, there would have been another option. Since I am a woman, I could theoretically have it changed permanently and commit-fully* through marriage: since I’m not a huge fan of my name, I might use this little technicality to grab someone else’s. But whose? Not being clairvoyant, I can’t exactly choose the name of my future husband and run with it. And even if I could, prior to being married, it might be a bit of a faux pas to do so.
Obviously, my writing could not be put on hold for want of a name. I couldn’t wait to get married in order to write, since I’m not part of the chaste-writing club, or whatever the hell I’d need to be part of for such an oath. Nor could I get married in order to get a name, obviously. I could make a name for myself as a porn writer, which I’d never want to get associated with my real name, so I’d need a nickname anyway – but then I’d have to write porn bad enough to never want it known that I wrote it, which… nah.
Nearly real name it is, then. But it wasn’t an easy choice.
* Yes, I make up words. Shush.