I’ve been fascinated with pseudonyms even before becoming a writer. Why would anyone change their name unless it was really awful, like D’eath or Ramsbottom, for instance? None of us would probably be too happy with either of those, though I do know of the D’eaths and the Ramsbottoms, and they are both really nice families.
Well, as a writer there is often a strong reason for having a pen name. It could be because you write in different genres and don’t want to confuse your different readerships. I was intrigued to read Agatha Christie’s pseudonym when she sometimes broke away from her famous detective stories to write about flawed introverted heroines and heroes. She wrote under the name of Mary Westmacott and apparently loved this genre. Strangely enough, I’ve never read one of her detective novels (though I loved her autobiography, Come, tell me how you live: an archaeological memoir), but I’ve read all six of her psychological novels and thoroughly enjoyed them.
It could be because you’ve written some steamy sex scenes, or even erotica, and you don’t want your mum to know.
Or you might want to change your real name because it has never sounded like an author.I write fiction and non-fiction so have a good case to choose a pen-name, particularly as I think Denise Barnes sounds rather businesslike, though it was perfect for my two published non-fiction memoirs, from Bad to Wurst: Bavarian adventures of a veggie cook and Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business. I just don’t think it has the right feel for my trilogy, which is a romantic family saga. So I’ve chosen to be known as Fenella Forster.
I didn’t pluck the name out of thin air. It happens to be the name of my grandfather whom I never met, and who might not have had any idea that he had a daughter (my mother), let alone that I existed. I will never be able to find any of his side of the family because I have no details about him, except my grandmother thought him the kindest man in the world, but at least I’ve acknowledged him by ‘borrowing’ his name as the author of my novels.
Trouble is, what do I sign the novel as – Fenella or Denise?
I would love to hear from other writers who have a pseudonym and why they chose it.