Pen Names and Pseudonyms

I’ve been cogitating on pen names and why people use them and looked up a few
different writers. The most famous recent writer to use a pseudonym is probably J K
Rowling when she writes her Cormorant Strike adult crime books. Rowling wrote as
Robert Galbraith and supposedly the only person who knew who she really was, was
her agent who sold the first book. A proof was sent to Val McDermid who wrote a
glowing review about this exciting new voice. Allegedly when the American rights
were being sold a lawyer told his partner the true identity and then they told…. etc etc
but by then Rowling’s decision had been vindicated. She knew she was being judged
as “a” writer and not as “the” writer of Harry Potter.


This seems a valid reason for using another name. Another reason is if the books
are in different genres. Evan Hunter wrote novels including Blackboard Jungle, but
he is far better known as Ed McBain the writer of crime fiction. But he had 5 or 6
other pen names… Iain Banks, a brilliant writer who died in 2013, had two successful
careers. As Iain M Banks he wrote science fiction and without the M he wrote literary
fiction. That way people knew what to expect but he was still recognisable. Going
back to Middlemarch (I may have mentioned it before…), of course Georg Eliot was
really Mary Ann Evans. She said she used a male pseudonym so her work would be
taken seriously.


Another few examples – Anne Rice (Interview with a Vampire) was born Howard
Allen Frances O’Brien. Try fitting that on a book jacket. Ruth Rendell also wrote as
Barbara Vine (again to separate genres I think). C S Forrester of Hornblower fame is
really Cecil Smith. J D Robb (one of my favourites) is really Nora Roberts. Joseph
Conrad of Heart of Darkness etc is was born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski.
Changing his name makes it a lot easier for librarians to look up!
There’s also silly games on Facebook that say your pen name should be the name
of your first pet plus the colour of the underwear you’re wearing. Or maybe that’s
your pop star name?? When I was young my father brought a mongrel puppy home
and my mother was NOT happy. They called it “that dog” for weeks… So folks, this is
That Dog Beige signing off till next time…