I write a lot of different things. Or at least I try to. My interests in writing span from horror to scifi to standard literature to YA to fantasy and all in between and beyond. There’s also a notebook where I’ve been outlining a piece I plan to write on a non-fiction topic. Politics to be more specific. Where as I write an awful lot about writing, or about my stresses, here on this site, let it be known that it is only because I’ve been avoiding posting up here anything that could be construed as controversial. I’d rather people enjoy my stories than get angry because my opinion differs from theirs.
Enter the idea of a pen name.
There are a number of writers who wrote under pen names; and there are many writers who don’t. Writers from Samuel Clemens and JK Rowlings to Stephen King are some more well-known writers who have used pen names. (For those of you who live under a rock and don’t recognize the name Samuel Clemens, it’s Mark Twain.) Even in a recent post on BookWorks, there is a fine argument made for their use.
Being a 40-something, white male, there is cause to question as to how much I truly know when say, writing a YA book. When the same name is then connected to a deep, hard-edge scifi novel with several explicit sex scenes and heavy cultural topics (what Of Earth and Ice will be when finally completed), it might shock a reader going from one to the other, not knowing what they are getting into. And what if I decide to write erotica, or romance? It’d be one thing to have them as undertones in another story, but…
Then what about the middle grade book I am writing?
Irrespective of how I choose to treat all the characters in my stories, this is more about the idea of protecting the reader than about me. While I am comfortable taking on hard topics in my stories, putting my name to them regardless of content, and while I am personally willing to read anything, I understand that some readers might be put off going from Of Earth and Ice to Agnes Pyle or vice versa. I don’t have to be secret about it, but knowing that a book has my name directly attached as the writer and another with a pen name may help others decide what to read and what to stay away from. I wouldn’t want a kid interested in other works by me after reading my forthcoming book, Soar, to then dive into The Good Teacher. That would be bad.
It sounds like an easy choice, but it also can be a pain. I know little more about writing with a pen name other than just choosing a name to write with that isn’t my own. What do I do about marketing? Should I be open and honest about the alternate names, or hide them? Do I change the name attributed to a book already published or keep everything as-is but change going forward? There are a lot of questions I still have, but it sounds simple enough: pen names will be a must.
Since I am going through a major rewrite/rebrand of my Gravity saga, it stands to reason that I may want to initiate the move now.