Please give a warm welcome to guest blogger C.A. Marshall! Cassandra is an intern for a literary agent as well as an aspiring author. Today she'll be talking about pen names, and I'll be featuring an interview with her in just a couple weeks, so please check back. Stop by Cassandra's website and blog to learn more about her.
A writer by any other name...
By C.A. Marshall
Pen names and Pseudonyms have been around for ages. Back when being a female with a pen was looked down on, Anne, Chalotte, and Emily Bronte chose to publish under the names Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell, respectively.
But it also goes the other way: Anne Rice was born Howard Allen O'Brien. (Anne Rice is a MAN?! No, she's a woman, her mother just has a sick sense of humor)
And we've all done those name game things, haven't we? Combine your and your grandfathers' first names to create your Nascar name (Fred James), or your mother’s and father’s middle names to create your Witness protection name (Ann Francis) or your pet's first name and the street you lived on as a child for your Porn Name (Mollie Longview, HA!)
Even Jane Austen (her sister was named Cassandra and that makes me happy) said in Northanger Abbey: "...[W]hat young lady of common gentility will reach the age of sixteen without altering her name as far as she can?" :) I have a hunch that this may be along the same lines as many girls hoping that their "real family" will show up one day and tell them that they are a princess or the daughter of a rockstar.
There are many reasons to use a pen name, here are a few:
1) Your real name is hard to remember and/or spell correctly.
Family Guy executive story editor/co-producer Cherry Chevapravatdumrong released two young adult novels, She's So Money and DupliKate using the name Cherry Cheva.
2) Your real name sounds silly, stupid or obscene.
Pearl Gray dropped his first name and changed the spelling of his last name to become Zane Grey, because he believed that his real name did not suit the Western genre. Romance novelist Angela Knight writes under that name instead of her actual name (Julie Woodcock) because of the double entendre of her surname.
On the other hand, Lemony Snicket sounds so much better than Daniel Handler for kids, doesn't it? Plus it's fun to say.
3) Your real name is the same as, or similar to, another author or a famous figure.
Stephanie Meiers, Stephen Kingsleys, and JP Rowling’s are not going to make it past the ed board.
4) To hide who you really are.
Romance writer Nora Roberts writes futuristic thrillers under the pen name J.D. Robb so as not to accost her readers who would expect the same kind of writing in the new genre.
C. S. Lewis used two different pseudonyms for different reasons. He published a collection of poems (Spirits in Bondage) and a narrative poem (Dymer) under the pen name "Clive Hamilton", to avoid harming his reputation as a don at Oxford University. His book entitled A Grief Observed, which describes his experience of bereavement, was originally released under the pseudonym "N. W. Clerk".
The Histoire d'O (The Story of O), an erotic novel of sadomasochism and sexual slavery, was written by an editorial secretary with a reputation of near-prudery who used the pseudonym Pauline Réage.
Alice Bradley Sheldon wrote under the pen name of James Tiptree, Jr. because she was a woman writing in the heavily male-dominated genre of science fiction and she was a career intelligence officer, first in the Army Air Corps and then in the early years of the CIA, for whom concealment was a way of life.
The identity of the enigmatic twentieth century novelist B. Traven has never been revealed, in spite of thorough research.
5) You want a gender neutral name.
J. K. Rowling used a gender neutral name to secure boy readers, many of whom will not read books written by women or authors with feminine names.
6) To avoid overexposure
Prolific authors for pulp magazines often had two and sometimes three short stories appearing in one issue of a magazine; the editor would create several fictitious author names to hide this from readers.
Robert A. Heinlein wrote stories under pseudonyms so that more of his works could be published in a single magazine.
Stephen King published four novels under the name Richard Bachman because publishers didn't feel the public would buy more than one novel per year from a single author.
What about you? If you're a writer/author, have you considered a pen name or are you gung-ho on using your real name? If you're not a writer, have you ever wanted to change your name to something else? If so, why?