I first wrote and published this post in 2019. Three years and two published novels later, I’m still happy with my choice to use a pseudonym, though I DO think it’s more fun to call it a “secret identity.”
It’s confession time. I’ve been leading a double life.
It’s true. I go about my daily jobs- feeding my family, teaching classes and planning and preparing church music- in one persona.
But when I can steal away from the day-to-day, I slip on the name “Anne Clare” and disappear for a while into the world of writing.
Ok, maybe this isn’t exactly a shocking revelation. Many writers use pen names. Samuel Clemens and Theodore Geisel became famous as Mark Twain and Dr. Seuss. The talented Bronte sisters all chose male names under which to sell their novels. More recently, authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have given up their familiar monikers for pseudonyms.
Perhaps you use a pseudonym online, or you’ve considered writing under one, or perhaps you just wonder why anyone would bother.
I did a bit of research before deciding to become Anne Clare, and found that fellow writers have a variety of reasons for rechristening themselves.
Time For A Change
If you’ve been writing with publication in mind, you’ve probably encountered the term “branding.” Part of an author’s brand is the genre they choose to write in.
But, what if an author wants to switch genres?
What if, say, a successful middle grade fantasy writer who’s created a beloved magical universe wants to try writing an adult crime fiction? Her old group of fans isn’t likely to be interested in her new work, and her fame in her old genre might actually work against her. However, if she writes the new story under a new name, she can reinvent herself and have a fresh start. (Unless, of course, everyone finds out about the pen name, as happened to J.K. Rowling…)
Or, what if an author has had a less than successful debut? A new persona offers a clean slate. (And, hopefully, experience will allow for a better Round 2!)
Having never published before, neither of these applied to me, but they were far from the only reasons for utilizing a pen name.
What’s In A Name?
“What’s in a name?” Romeo asked.
Quite a bit, I’m afraid, if you’re a gentleman named Brutus Slabfist who just wants to write sweet, tear-jerking stories about a boy and his hedgehog, Mr. Snuffles. Poor Luscious Huneelips may be out of luck too, as she just wants to write action-packed thrillers.
Does the author’s name really have anything to do with their writing talent? Of course not. Would some names just look a little…odd on certain covers? Afraid so.
There’s also the possibility of confusion for those who share a name with someone famous- or infamous. Author Theodore E. Kaczynski might have a different middle name and no other similarities to the Unabomber than a first and last name, but…well…moving into a public forum, a change might be a good idea.
Some authors take the opportunity to chose pen names that fit their distinct genre. A couple of my favorites are “Daisy Meadows,” a pseudonym used by four authors who write a series of books about fairies that my eldest enjoys, and “Lemony Snicket,” the name taken by the author of the popular A Series of Unfortunate Events books.
Fortunately, neither my maiden name nor my married name are particularly dreadful, or (to my knowledge) shared by any infamous criminals. However, there was one other major reason for using a pseudonym that caught my attention.
Privacy In a Public World
Maybe it’s just me being from the generation that remembers a time before the internet. (Yeah, you youngins, and it wasn’t that long ago either!) But when I realized that pursuing publication of my writing almost certainly required internet visibility, I hesitated.
Sure, I’d used Facebook- and then someone hacked our account and started commenting on the pictures of our baby that we had put up for family to see. Creepy.
Now I was considering venturing onto new sites online, not only to share interesting history tidbits but also opening up about my writing, my personal life, and interacting with people I didn’t know. People I couldn’t even see face to face to tell if they were who they said they were.
This was not a comfortable prospect.
However, once I settled on taking a pen name, some of my concerns eased. Having a buffer between my private life and the things I chose to share publicly has allowed me to be more honest in my writing than I’d be comfortable doing otherwise.
So Far, So Good
I’ve been Anne Clare online for nearly two years, and so far I’ve been pleased with the choice. Pen names are so common in the writing industry that using one hasn’t been an inconvenience at all to date. We’ll see if that changes once I have a book in print!
What about you? Are you using or considering using a pen name, or are you using your own? What drove your choice?
Thanks so much for stopping by!