What’s in a name?

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I was thinking about pen names the other day, as I about to embark on a new project and wondered whether I should use one of my pen names. I have a little cache of names I use when writing for newspapers, my reason being that I don’t want my fiction work associated with my journalistic work. My choice of names are pretty boring, I’m not doing the star checking into a hotel thing and saying I’m Katniss Everdeen or Mr. Darcy, I’m just initialising, middle name etc. Many famous writers have used Pseudonyms or pen names for many reasons.

The most annoying is for sexist or gender bias reasons.

The Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, were first published as Currier, Ellis and Acton Bell, when the publishers finally met their writers they were shocked to see they were women. Louisa May Alcott, before writing Little Women, published stories under the name A M Barnard. We may excuse this by saying it was Victorian times, but as many are aware Joanne Rowling was asked to asexualize her name as the publishers believed a book about a boy wizard wouldn’t appeal to it’s audience if they knew it was written by a women. J.K Rowling also later went on to write The Cuckoos Calling as Robert Galbraith. Rowling states her reason being to “go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre to work without hype or expectation”

Some writers want to simplify their names.

Joseph Conrad was born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski.

Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.

Mark Twain born Samuel Longhorne Clemens.

Some writers want to distance themselves from previous works.

Agatha Christie, being a successful suspense writer, used the pseudonym Mary Westcott to write 6 romance novels. In reverse Nora Roberts, the successful romance novelist wrote under the name JD Robb for her suspense novel series. The Booker Prize winners Julian Barnes and John Banville wrote crime /thriller novels under the names Dan Kavanagh and Benjamin Black.

The two, which I find the most amusing, are Benjamin Franklin who wrote for a newspaper under the name of Mrs. Silence Dogood. –He must have had a sense of humour. The second is Theodor Geisel; he was the editor of his universities newspaper until caught with alcohol during prohibition. To continue writing he invented a pseudonym. He took his middle name Seuss and to annoy his father, who wanted him to be a doctor, he added the title, hence the birth of Dr. Seuss.

I’ll leave you with a puzzle, who published early works under the name of Boz?

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6 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Ah, beaten to Dickens! SJ Bolton has just decided to revert to her real name of Sharon Bolton – she was originally told to assexualise like Rowling, but is now making a stand. I think she’s probably well enough established now to risk it, but she pointed out that it seems insane since apparently women buy far more books than men anyway.

    I didn’t know Barnes wrote crime novels…

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