Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.
QUESTION: What are your thoughts about using a pseudonym, or maybe just your initials and last name (to conceal gender), or perhaps a variation of your legal name (e.g., first and middle, no last)?
Lisa J. Jackson: I have 2 pseudonyms – 1 for most fiction and 1 specifically for romance. The first was a necessity, as there is a prolific author already filling books shelves with novels as “Lisa Jackson”. So I needed a name for my fiction and have gone with retaining my first name, but using a family last name: Lisa Haselton. (It’s funny that I do double-takes when I see my real name on a book spine or cover even though it’s not me!)
The other pseudonym is for romance writing and it’s simply a first and last name combination that I like.
My real name is for non-fiction and business writing.
Having 3 identities works well for me. Using a pseudonym is a personal choice, as is deciding on a name or using initials or using gender-neutral names. Using multiple pseudonyms is a balancing act!
Jamie Wallace: This is a complicated one for me. I began my public writing life by basically live-blogging my divorce (not really “on purpose” … it just kind of happened). At that time, I was – for obvious reasons – conflicted about my name. (Wallace is my married name.) During those first years, I used my middle name and blogged as “Jamie Lee,” a moniker that always made me think of a southern belle and gave me an urge to take on an appropriately twangy drawl.
As I thought about this question, I considered the reasons authors use pseudonyms: to conceal gender, to hide identity all together, to protect the innocent, to avoid a life of celebrity (we should be so lucky), to be “allowed” to write across genres, or for marketing cache. Most of these reasons get my hackles up.
Though I understand the perceived necessity, it irks me that any writer would feel compelled to conceal her name in order to become more marketable to a broader audience. I find it disheartening that, in this day and age, many women feel (with good reason) that a male or gender-neutral pseudonym will help them win more sales. Are readers still biased against women being able to write certain kinds of books?
I’m also not crazy about authors having to adopt pen names in order to write across genres. I just read a fascinating article in which Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro discuss Breaking the Boundaries Between Fantasy and Literary Fiction. They explain how genre is primarily a function of book selling, a consistent and universal way for book sellers to organize and categorize their wares. They also note that this is a fairly recent development in the writing world. As Gaiman says in the article, ” I think if you were a novelist writing in 1920 or 1930, you would simply be perceived as having written another novel. When Dickens published A Christmas Carol nobody went, ‘Ah, this respectable social novelist has suddenly become a fantasy novelist: look, there are ghosts and magic.'”
It’s an interesting quandary, one I’m not yet able to solve. We’ll see what the future brings for me. 😉
Wendy Thomas: I’ve written and thought about this before. I have no problem using my “real” name. I never took my husband’s full last name but in a nod to convention (sort of) I did take his last initial as my second middle name, so legally I’m Wendy Ellen N. Thomas.
I’m not into pseudo-names as I have no problem with everyone associating my work to me. HOWEVER, I have always disliked my name and felt that it never fit me. I’ve never been a “Wendy” and I don’t even think about “Ellen” unless I see it on legal papers. Who the heck is that??? (and yes, I realize how psycho that all sounds.)
What I like (and am still looking for a good one) is a variation on my name. W.E.N. Thomas? Wendy EN Thomas? I’ve even played around with W. Edgar Thomas – because my middle name was *supposed* to be Edgar (after my father’s name) had I been a boy. That would certainly turn a few heads.
Deborah Lee Luskin – the only name I’ve ever had, though not the only name I ever used. As I child I was Debbie and as a teen Debi, but I reverted to Deborah as an adult. I did consider publishing as D.L. Luskin for the obvious reasons, but having to hide who I am made me too mad. Then, as I started amassing degrees (and I have a lot of them, starting with one from – I kid you not – Nursery School – right through two Masters and a PhD) and hanging them on the wall, I noticed they all had one thing in common: my full, legal name. So that’s what I use.