…a.k.a. pen name a.k.a. pseudonym a.k.a. literary double a.k.a. alias.
Do not be concerned, I am not talking about this Halloween costume supply shop.
I’m talking about the custom of a person who was born with one name adopting another (or several other) names under which to publish their books.
This was, and still is, a common practice among writers for various reasons. At one time (think at least two hundred years ago), female authors often used male pen names, fearing no one would read their books if they knew the author was a woman. In more contemporary times, authors who are established in one genre and want to break into another genre, may use a pen name so readers don’t make a judgment based on what they’ve previously written.
AbeBooks has written a great post on their website, showcasing the books of many talented writers that wrote under a name different from their original. Of course they mention the classics like Mark Twain (actually Samuel Langhorne Clemens), and for me, Nora Roberts, who is also well-known for writing as J.D. Robb.
I remember how shocking it was for me to find out Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb were the same person. (Okay, shocking may have been an overstatement, but I was surprised.) Do you remember any “big reveals” in your life?
Some of the authors who immediately come to mind (who use pen names) are children’s book authors like R.L. LaFevers (real first name – Robin) and E. Lockhart (the E stands for Emily, but her real last name is Jenkins). I don’t know why R.L. LaFevers writes under that name, but E. Lockhart writes on her website:
“What does E stand for? What’s your real name? And why do you go by E?
E. stands for Emily, and I use it on my teen books because I write other kinds of books using my whole, legal name. My dad calls me E., and I always liked it.”
As we new writers look into getting published, I think it’s a legitimate question to ask ourselves – do we want to write under our own legal names or not? If you decide you do, but can’t decide on a name, this handy dandy Pen Name Generator website will create one for you.
Mine is apparently Cindy Capleton. What’s yours?