Friday, July 13, 2007

N. Kognito

“What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”--William Shakespeare, of course.

Mmhmm. Right.
I’m here to tell you that, sonnet-worthy or not, the brain-strain involved in concocting a PEN NAME, can be anything but rosy, my friends. And I’m finding the process particularly . . . thorny.

Which is exactly what my esteemed Critique Partner said of my first choice of a nom de plume: Candy Bramble.
“Hate it. Too thorny.” She pronounced.
Prompting me to admit to her that . . . ahem . . . it is my actual given name.

The same way, I argued, that Archibald Leach was a real name, until it was changed to Cary Grant.
She rested her case.

The fact is, that I’m currently writing a proposal for a novel that is not a mystery. And (cross fingers, toes, and spit over my left shoulder) when an editor acquires this work, he or she may very well suggest that I use a pen name to avoid confusing readers.
Plenty of authors do use pen names, for reasons like:
1) Their real name is difficult to pronounce, or . . . something like . . . Harold Butts. Whose friends call him Harry, and . . . you get it. Not bookspine-worthy.

2) They are seeking anonymity. As in a grade school teacher who stays up nights, writing Erotic Paranormal Romance.

3) They must compete in a gender-based genre. (Like mystery--or so says Sisters in Crime). Hence the common use of “neutral” initials in place of first names, like: J.K. Rowling J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts)

4) Or they are prolific writers in a multitude of genres.

5) Or (as I am) they are breaking into a new genre.

How about these notable pen names:
Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski ~Joseph Conrad
Pearl Gray ~Zane Grey
Karen Blixen (Out of Africa) ~Isak Dinesen
A.M. Barnard ~Louisa May Alcott
Samuel Clemens~ Mark Twain

Or--the incredible pseudonym list of bestselling author Dean Koontz: David Axton, Brian Coffey, Deanna Dwyer, K.R. Dwyer, John Hill, Leigh Nichols, Anthony North, Richard Paige, Owen West, and Aaron Wolfe.

So, obviously, using a pen name is common and acceptable. The problem is lies in inventing one that “suits” you.

And complying with the cautions about using any surname beginning with a letter beyond “M,” since bookshelves are mostly alphabetical--and customers may be reluctant to stoop.
And--also because of the alphabetical aspect--the advice to choose a surname close to the spelling of a bestselling author.
Like Stephen King, Candy Kink. Mmm . . . maybe not . . .

Gad, so much to consider.

But then, why not simply toss caution to the winds, and use this online Name Generator:

Which, of course, makes me . . . Tyron Riberdy.

So, how about you--using a pen name? How did you choose it?
If not, what name would you choose, if you had to?

By the way, William Shakespeare was a pen name.


Bill Cameron said...

Interesting, Tyron!

I'm being my real me, mostly because I'm struggle so much with titles I didn't even want to think about coming up with a pseudonym.

For my 40th birthday, pre-publication, my lovely wife threw me a murder mystery party, and I was cast as, ahem, the writer. For my role, I created a bunch of fake book covers for my "series" which I printed out at Kinko's and wrapped around real books. Nice props. For those, my name of "Bukk Hammerhand."

Bukk, as it happens, is Bill, except you happen to have moved your right hand one set of keys to the left on the keyboard. Kuje tgus.

So if I ever end up needing a pen name, I might have one already! The name is Bukk. Bukk Hammerhand...

Deb Baker said...

Candy, thanks for the link to names. It takes all the worry out.

Gratefully yours,
Jermaine Hoeser

Mark Terry said...

"Or--the incredible pseudonym list of bestselling author Dean Koontz: David Axton, Brian Coffey, Deanna Dwyer, K.R. Dwyer, John Hill, Leigh Nichols, Anthony North, Richard Paige, Owen West, and Aaron Wolfe."

Jeeesus. My son recently asked me something about why Stephen King would publish under the name Richard Bachman (I think this was in response to something I said about "Blaze" King's latest Bachman. And I commented that there are days when I suspect there's only one author writing under a whole hell of a lot of pseudonyms, and they're all being published by Stephen King. Now I wonder if it's all Dean Koontz. Maybe Stephen King is Dean Koontz. Has anyone seen them together?

How about:

Phillip Screwdriver

Bill Fold

Krystal Starr (actually, this is a real name, I went to school with her).

Sandra Beach (also a real one; she graduated with my wife)

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I was once told that strippers choose names by coupling the name of their first pet with the name of the street they lived on as a kid. Writers could do this, too.

Puddles Hilldale

Candy Calvert said...

Bukk,Jermaine,Bill Fold, and Puddles (was this a house-training issue?)--I'm very glad to have helped you discover your true identities.

Anyone in NYC?

Candy, in Dallas

spyscribbler said...

For anonymity. Unfortunately, I didn't expect to keep writing after I chose my penname for that one little thing. Now I'm stuck with it.

Writing under more than one name is owning more than one business. I wish I didn't have to, that's for sure!