Recently an agent I know asked one of her clients to consider writing books outside her genre. Now, the author is a novelist and the agent wasn’t asking her to write non-fiction, just a different type of novel than the ones which had gained her reputation.
(For an established writer, that can feel more than disorienting. It can feel threatening or even provoke thoughts of “selling out,” or at the very least, take time away from one’s familiar genre. On the other hand, these are tough times. Many unpublished writers would jump at a chance like that, to prove themselves marketable. And from a biblical point of view, even the Apostle Paul stopped traveling for a while and made tents to support himself. But that’s an issue for another day, another column.)
One of the strategies that a publisher sometimes asks of an established author is to publish the “new” genre writings under a nom de plume. Pen names represent a time-honored practice—you didn’t think that Mark Twain, George Orwell, George Sand, Zane Grey and Lewis Carroll were the authors’ birth names, did you?
What other reasons do people have for choosing pen names? One reason is to create a type of distance from one’s own real name. I know that when I was an insecure teenager, having the birth name of Celeste Latayne Colvett had no advantages I could think of. So I really, really, really wanted to change my name to Jody Sue to prove that I was golly-gee-Molly-Mormon okay.
I myself published a children’s book, The Dream Quilt (Waterbrook Press) under a pen name, the first names of my two children, Celeste Ryan. There may be a reason to dust it off and use it again.
So, readers, what is your favorite pen name? Do you have or do you want to have a pen name; and if so, what is it?