Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Pen Name


In an email thread a couple of months ago, as Lucky 13s, we were discussing pen names. I was blown away when I realized how many of us were using pen names! The reasons ranged from a hard to spell last name, to not wanting steamy writing to be reflect negatively on their parents (which totally made me giggle), to their name being the same as an evil dictator's, to having a name that is much too common to be easily Google-able.

I found the entire conversation fascinating! I seriously had not ever thought there were so many good reasons to use a pen name.

(For the record, Peggy Eddleman is not a pen name. As the owner of a last name that gets misspelled virtually every single time it's written, you'd think I would have considered that. Nope! I just figured Eddleman is a very uncommon last name; Peggy is an uncommon first name. People weren't likely to have to sift through the lawyer Peggy Eddleman, the comic Peggy Eddleman, and the renowned chef Peggy Eddleman to find the author Peggy Eddleman. Know what I mean?)

But anyway, it got me wondering about you guys.

Do you use (or are you planning to use) a pen name? Why or why not?

And if you are, how did you go about choosing what your pen name was? I've got to admit. I think I nipped in the bud the mere thought of whether or not a pen name was a good idea, simply because of how VERY HARD coming up with a name is! I mean, seriously. I have a hard time naming my MCs. I'm supposed to name myself?! I don't think this....


is going to cut it. Turner Sixty North just doesn't have quite the ring to it.

44 comments:

Annalisa Crawford said...

I never even considered using a pen name. I've put all this effort in, I definitely want people to know it's me!

My pen name would be Austen Rheola - which is just plain silly! :-)

Kyra Lennon said...

Haha, if I used that formula, my last name would also be North. But my first name - Rowling! Rowling North sounds like a sailing term!

I used to use my real name for writing when I was freelancing, but due to some - let's say not so nice people - in the internet world, I changed my name as a way of protecting myself. That name is how I am best known now, so I am sticking with Kyra Lennon. Plus, it's uncommon enough that people will be easily able to Google me, if they wish!

Tracey J said...

I think pen names a interesting, but I don't use one. I would be horrible at coming up with a pen name that accurately represents me. :D

Mara Rae said...

I never planned on using a pen name until my hubby joined the Foreign Service. Now he's all uptight about me using our last name on my blog :P So I'm probably going to use my first and middle names (Mara Rae - hence my screen name) unless someone tells me it sucks. In which case I guess I'm stuck with Austen Larkfield.

S.P. Bowers said...

Nope, I won't use a pen name unless my agent and publisher (when I get them) are very adament about it. I'm sure I would forget which name to sign at all the book signings. My name is very common and when you google it you get playboy bunnies, authors, and book characters with that name. That's why I went to my initials. Much more googleable plus I won't forget who I am.

Steph Sessa said...

I mostly didn't want to use a pen name, because I feel like I would get confused and not respond when people would call me it, lol. Though Clare Waverly does have a certain ring to it...

Adam Heine said...

Yeah, that formula is inherently flawed. All the fantasy authors would have the first name Tolkien.

Hm, Tolkien Ramona...

Oh, to answer your question, I do not have a pen name and don't plan on getting one (yet). So far, I only have to share Google with some guy at Camden Securities. And I'm winning.

Faith E. Hough said...

Hmm, I think your formula would work pretty well for me: Austen Dorrance. (I picked that street over U.S. Oval or Court Knoll or New Jersey St.--I moved a lot.) Of course there would be a lot of Austens in the writing world if we all followed that. :)
My name is hard to pronounce, considering there are about a dozen ways to say "ough" (in my name it rhymes with tough), but I'll stick with it. I figure Derek and Julianne Hough have paved the way...and after all, people figured out Schwarzenegger...

JeffO said...

Right, from now on, call me King Ralph. It's better than what I'd get if we used the system Dav Pilkey invented in the Captain Underpants book (I believe it was 'The Perilous Plot of Professor P. Pippy Poopypants'. I can't find our copy of that right now, so I don't know what my name would translate to using that system).

Anyway, I plan on using my real name, but an agent or publisher might say "Not with a name like that! You need a pen name!" We'll see.

Colin Smith said...

It shouldn't come as a huge surprise that I don't use a pen name. I mean, I can't imagine anyone choosing "Smith" as a last name unless they were going for anonymity! I make use of my middle initial (Colin D. Smith) to make some differentiation between me and the gazillion other Colin Smiths in the world. But I'm pleased to say that if you Google my name, my blog is on the first page of results (at least at the moment).

I might be persuaded to use a pseudonym if I was already established as a writer in one genre but wanted to dabble in another, or perhaps put out some ebook novellas, or something like that. This was the theme of a YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday back in January, and I suggested my pen name would be Tim Shinloc, or, if I was writing detective fiction, Art Christie. :)

Clarissa Draper said...

Well, few that have commented so far have used pen names. I use a pen name. Clarissa is not my real name.

I don't use my real name because (a) my name is very unique and (b) I really don't want any of my family to know I write, they make my life complicated.

So, for anonymity sake, I use Clarissa Draper.

That being said, I have used the name so long that I really would respond if someone called Clarissa. And I have to decide what name to use when signing my signature. I live two lives.

Delia said...

I use my maiden name because my married name is unique. If you Google it, you only get me. Which may seem like an advantage until you realize that you also get my Dad's obituary, my kids honor roll listings, etc. Too personal. Also, it is, in fact, really hard to spell. And with my first name, well...I just wanted people to be able to spell/remember one of them. (I never misspell Eddleman because it's the last name of one of my favorite football players. :) )

Patti said...

I don't think I would use a pen name. My name's pretty simplistic, but like others have commented, if I wrote in a different genre, I'd probably change my name.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I have prepared to have one, since they say if you write different genres it can be confusing and frustrating to readers. However, since you can find things online so easiily now, I'm not sure that will be necessary.

Time will tell, I guess.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I've never considered a pen name. And yes,I know how it is to get your last name misspelled. And my first name. *sigh* Oh well. At least it's different, right? lol :)

Iain said...

I don't think I'll use one either. I struggle to remember my real name, let alone an additional one :o)
Following your rules, my pen name would be Pratchet Matfield :o|

Carrie-Anne said...

Next month makes it 19 years I've been writing under the pseudonym Carrie-Anne. I was only 13 when I picked it, and wanted to use a name from a song. This was when I was just really starting to get into Sixties music, so I didn't know that many songs with female names yet. I think it's been a good match for me, since I've been a Hollies fan for the last 19 years, and the name Carrie-Anne just seems like my other identity after so long of claiming it. My pen surname was originally Brown, also from a Sixties song, but I added -ian to the end two years later when I became an Armenophile.

My real surname is Slovakian, and always getting mangled into something Irish or Scottish, or sometimes even further off the mark. My real forename is Anna, the most boring and overused female name in history after only Mary. I never understood why it's such a popular name even now. Even the name Mary seems more original than Anna these days!

Lauren S. said...

I've made up a few pen names, but I don't think I'll actually use them. I'll probably go with my first initial, second initial, and last name (I've googled it, and it looks like nobody else uses that form of the name!)

Jenny S. Morris said...

I might use a pen name if I want to write in a different genre. So Lewis Pluma it is. LOL. Or Lewis Skyline. Or Lewis Sorrels. I "grew up" on a lot of streets.

I think I would go by my maiden name if I had to do a pen and maybe a made of first. Charlotte Disotell. Lyla Disotell. Now you've got me going.

Angela Brown said...

I used a pen name when I self-published Secret Lilies several years ago. It's a steamy novel, some sexual graphic going on and I knew that I would want to write in a different genre so a pen name seemed appropriate.

I've always been drawn to the word raven so I added a y to it, making it Rayven. I just tossed Godchild on it to complete the namimg process. But the name I'm using for my YA novels is more like my name, though I'd prefer to publish as A.L. Brown. There are so many Angela's in the world. :-)

Morgan said...

I'm still in hysterics over the whole Leigh/Abby thing. It's freaking me out! LOL.

My name is 100% real in its unusualness. When I google it, it says I'm the only person named Morgan Shamy in the US. Crazzzzzy.

But I think pen names are cool. It'd be fun to create a whole new name for yourself! Fun post! :D

Janet Johnson said...

Okay, my new name is McKinley Eastwood. What do you think?

But I think my name is so common, I'll probaby have to use a pen name when the time comes.

Carrie Butler said...

I wanted to call myself Peggy Eddleman, but someone was already using that name. Darn the luck! ;) I guess I'll stick with my real name, for now.

Kristine said...

Mine would be Sanderson Sixty North. Maybe it doesn't work in Utah where the start is mostly a grid style (which I LOVE!)

S. L. Hennessy said...

I do. I like the initial, initial, last name set up. If it was good enough for Lewis, Tolkien, and Rowling, then it's good enough for me.

Laura Pauling said...

Exactly - Bear Hill Road would not make a good last name! :)

Angela Cothran said...

My first name is common--Angela, but my last name isn't--Cothran. So I'm just going with my name. Plus there is something I love about readers knowing the real me. I also want the pressure of making sure I'm proud enough of what I write to put my name on it.

Tonja said...

I'm not sure yet. I'm leaning toward using my real name and asking my family to trust that none of the characters are them.

I think it's something I'll deal with when/if I get published.

I got a lot of flack for not taking my current husband's name when I got married - it's Greek and very unusual and hard to spell. If you combine that with the odd spelling of my first name, I would be the only one. In the world. Terrifying.

Leigh Covington said...

You already know all about my pen name! These are funny reasons though. I did find another "Leigh Covington" out there. She's a consultant or something. I was shocked to find another, but I doubt I should be. Kinda fun and it's not so bad that people can't find me. :)

Cristina said...

I have thought about using one because I don't know that my names flows all that well.... . but I'm sticking with it for now :)

Ruth Josse said...

I think I'm going to stick with my real name but maybe use my maiden name. I do have the issue of having people think an old lady wrote the book, though. Ruth isn't very common these days unless you go to the senior center. :)

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Mine would be Laurence Windridge. Which would make me an English GUY.
So, like NO.
But you know? I've already had so many last names that I don't know who the heck I am so there's no way I'm adding yet another name to the roster.

Nicole said...

I don't currently use a pen name, but I wouldn't rule it out in the future.

The Beans said...

I think my Pen Name wouldn't really work: Brontë 123 Court. Sounds like it came out of an Arthurian legend.:P

On a more serious note, I had contemplated using a pen name, namely, to make my family name sound more Anglicized and therefore "acceptable," but then I realized that was quite silly since it is not a very common name in the first place.

Plus, when I asked my favorite high school English teacher about it, she said that I should keep my name. I greatly value her opinion because she totally rocks.

-Barb the French Bean (Which is my blogging moniker, lol)

Imogen said...

I've never thought about having a pen name, but it does make sense in a way. My name gets lost in the Google search because me last name is Elvis, so if I Google myself I come up will a million references to some affair between Imogen and Elvis.

That formula for making a pen name is too difficult for me. I lived in seven or so streets while growing up. Which would I use?

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I don't use a pen name, although now that you mention the spelling issue I should! No one EVER gets my name right. I am Susan, Susanne, Suzanne, Suzanna, Suzannah, Susannah... you name is, anything but the right one :)

Joshua said...

I've always considered a pen name, but not sure what I'd use. Maybe that old "find your stripper name" game where you use your middle name and the name of the street you grew up on.

Gwen said...

Yep, I use a penname. One, because my real name is super common, and two, I had joined social networking site with the idea of helping me find a job. When I started blogging and that took off, I wanted to keep it separate from what employers were looking at.

So, how did I come up with Gwen Tolios?

My first name has roots in Guinevere, hence the Gwen. I've always wished I was more in touch with my Greek heritage (mom's an immigrant, but came over really young) so used, Tolios my grandmother's maiden name, to finish off my penname.

Some people just use single names, like Avi. But you would have to really make sure it's unique.

Nick Hight said...

I've never really considered using a pen name, although I realise now that there are a number of good reasons for it. But for me, I can't imagine anything greater than seeing my own name on a book cover - so why would I use a false one?

Great post :)

Tracy Bermeo (aka A2Z Mommy) said...

I like Turner Sixty North, it's sounds detectivey. My sister's name is Peggy as is a dear friend of mine. They are both Margarets. I have not used a pen name, but if I ever write anything racy I think I would, just to protect others. Having enough of a hard time establishing myself, forget about the alter ego. But... there's always that "bar name" I used to use on occasion when out with the girls after work.
A2ZMommy and What’s In Between

linda said...

I've considered a pen name before but have been too lazy to think one up, so I resort to not throwing my last name about too much in case I want to use a different one in the future. :P (And to make myself less Google-able.) My last name can be hard to pronounce/spell for people who don't speak Chinese. (Unless you speak Russian, apparently.)

I love seeing what people came up with using that formula! Yours is great LOL. I would be L'Engle Wedgewood. Sounds pretty awesome as far as pen names go, but I'd prefer one that reflects my heritage. :)

Hannah Hounshell said...

No pen name for me, thanks. Like you said: it's hard enough finding the perfect names for ones characters as it is.

Besides, keeping track of two different names sounds like a disaster waiting to happen if you're me. Even if it wasn't, I really like my name. So yeah, I think I'll pass on that one. :)p

Kim said...

Yes, I do use a pen name. It's not Niblick Landman, though...

Kimberly Karen is my first and middle name. My real surname is still my married name (I've been divorced six years now), but I've been thinking about changing it. So to avoid confusion later on down the road, I decided to use my first and middle names.

Lauren said...

My first name is impossible to remember or spell, my last name is impossible to remember or spell, I want that extra layer of privacy, my chosen "pen name" is set right next to a very popular author in the library, and it's much easier to write without thinking "Hey, people will know this is me so I'd better tone it down."

When I chose the name (Lauren Ritz) there was no one on the internet with that name. Now that I've started to build a platform, she's all over the place!