October 26, 2011

Which Witch Wrote Which…

I listen to a bunch of podcasts about writing, and one topic that tends to come up on a fairly regular basis is that of pseudonyms, or pen names. Before I started paying attention to the world of publishing via these podcasts, the only reason I figured an author would adopt a pen name was for the preservation of his or her personal privacy. (I knew that a few well-known authors—like Nora Roberts—wrote under other names—like J.D. Robb, but I didn’t pay the fact much attention. I tend to be rather ditzy that way.) It turns out that many authors who write under one name in one genre choose to write under different names in other genres to keep from confusing readers. I *try* to read across genre. Different flavors from a familiar author would intrigue me. But I know first hand from working at the library that plenty of readers would be annoyed to pick up the latest novel by their favorite author of crime mysteries only to find a thieving elf inside the cover, flashing his sword in some secret sorcery.

I would hope that cues from the cover and the jacket copy would warn fans that, “Hey, this isn’t like my books with bullet holes and stilettos on the cover. See those spiky ears and that flaming dragon belch beneath the double-serifed font of the subtitle?” But in the world of book marketing, cues like these aren’t always enough. Many authors keep entirely separate professional identities for each genre or line in which they write so their readers won’t have to wonder which books to buy. Some readers feel more comfy this way, and others will seek out their favorite authors no matter which names they use. I suppose it all works out.

OK, I confess. I wrote all of the above just to preface saying, “I wonder what pen name I would use if I had to use a pen name.”

Do you have any ideas? I draw a blank. You’d think the baby-crazed years I spent before Eva’s birth looking up meanings and writing out combinations of first and middle names in cursive like a middle-schooler with a crush would have prepared me for this question. Two of the baby names I’m partial to at the moment are Ivy and Meg, but those are baby names, not me names. Could I be a Tabitha? (Both Tabitha and Wendy are TV witches, after all. And no, I don’t know what that has to do with anything.) I hear that my parents thought of naming me Sara, but even though that’s a beautiful name, I’m glad they went with Wendy. She flies with Peter Pan, after all. Frakkin’ Peter Pan adores Wendy, even if she can be a downer at times.

When I’m an author-who-is-read-by-people-other-than-her-husband-under-duress-and-her-writing-group, I might use a version of my name that’s different from the one I use in everyday life, mainly because I think it sounds better. If I do, though, I imagine it will be my only name as far as publishing goes. While I grasp the reasoning behind pseudonyms, keeping up with one identity is hard enough. Also, I’m too anal-retentive to have my work attached to multiple personalities. It would feel messy, I think, not to mention fake, and—horror—people might not realize that I was also, oh let’s call her… Tabitha Teller, a mighty twister of tales who can wriggle her lips at a moment’s notice and morph back into little old Wendy.

Hey wait, maybe I do want a pen nameā€¦

So, what name do you think I could pull off? What about you?

Victoria Holt, the author I’m reading now, had eight pen names. I’ve worked at the library for years and didn’t know that until I read this Wikipedia article. Victoria Holt is the same person as Jean Plaidy and Philippa Carr! Her real name was Eleanor Hibbert. Jeez Louise. She was a rather amazing woman. (Victoria Holt, that is. Not Louise.)