The Prompt – Do you write under a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, would you ever consider it?
No. But there are plenty of reasons why “you” (literal usage) would choose to
- You write crap. But you’re pretty sure that one day you’ll get better and write something significant.
- You’re on the lam.
- You don’t want to embarrass or offend your mom.
- You obtain your material from the lives of people you know.
- You obtain your material via access to protected information like medical, legal, financial or other “privacy protected” files through work or “friends.”
- You want to write something out of your usual content type or style.
- You ghostwrite.
- You have more books as yourself than the publisher or public wants in a year.
- You write for publishing house serials or monthly release shelf fillers akin to Romance or Adventure Hero.
- You have a reputation, good or bad, to uphold.
- You are beautiful, rich, desirable, normal, ugly as a mud fence, too old, too young, too fat, too thin, bald, hospitalized, toothless, incarcerated or institutionalized, are vulnerable or have vulnerable family and don’t want/need weirdos knocking on your door.
- You have an unfortunate birth name. Seymour Butts, Ima Broklifart, Colin Ostemi, Hugh Jorgasm (well, that one might work for certain genres). I could boil this down to the old Oklahoma Indian joke, “Why do you ask, Two Dogs Fucking in the Mud?”
In my part of Texas alone, the original HEB Grocery chain started life as H E Butt Grocers. Urban myth claims his first name was Harry. In truth, Howard. For years, smack in the middle of North Dallas off 635, Dedman Memorial Hospital. Hell yeah, I’m sick. Take me there.
Further to the above, consider the what and why of a few of those who have.
Kilgore Trout haunted Kurt Vonnegut his entire life. Trout was pigeonholed by critics as science fiction and Vonnegut swore that prevented any of them from seeing his work in its true light.
In brighter light, Agatha Christie wrote romance novels as Mary Westmacott and got away with it for 20 years.
Richard Bachman got six or seven on the shelves, allowing Stephen King to beat the “one book a year” publishing mafia restriction before he was outed. Side note, what’s with that one a year? McDonald published three a year in the 50s, plus short stories. There was no public or corporate outcry.
Going deep literary, George Eliot covered many tracks, some subsets of the list above and not all circumspect, for Mary Ann(e) Evans. Separating her from sexist pigeonholing and her existing success as a translator, journalist, editor and critic.
Mark Twain had a “ring” to it that Samuel Clemens did not.
Edgar Box wrote several formulaic, clever, highly satirical, funny, early Fifties pulps. They are a revelation in how much social satire you can pack in a first-person whodunnit. Turns out Box was Gore Vidal.
Box is also a lesson in extremes if you pair him with, say, Spillane’s One Lonely Night or McDonald’s All These Condemned. All from the same time period, all completely different takes on society and politics. I digress.
For me – There is no point in being someone else, other than hiring a person 30 years younger with all their hair and 3% max body fat to do my publicity tours once I hit the million mark. I’m not holding my breath or auditions.
Seriously, I don’t see the point. I have written owner’s manuals, how-to manuals, monthly columns on tech for songwriters, even presentations and columns for (this will kill some of you) Maranatha and the top mag for church music ministers, among others. Under my given name. I thought one time that, golly, what if somebody read something I wrote and protested “No way the dumb hippie sonofabitch I knew could’ve written this!” Or refused to read it because my name was on it. In the general scheme of things it is, 1) highly unlikely anybody would read it, and 2) what’s half a dozen lost sales? Besides, there’s plenty of “me” out there, name wise. Let the weirdos show up in their driveways.
A few thoughts –
Evans used Eliot to avoid sexist stereotyping, among other things. Regardless of the name she used, she was successful.
Bachman sold a lot of books, even got a movie deal, before anyone knew he was King.
Westmacott’s romance novels sold, even without Christie’s name on them.
Box got excellent reviews and sold some books for Signet before the global success of Gore Vidal.
Crossing curriculum boundaries, Paul McCartney has produced, written, and sold chart-topping hit records under half a dozen names.
If you can write, you can write. No matter what you call yourself for comfort, privacy, or any of the myriad other reasons. But a free word of advice – if your last name is Broklifarts? Change it.
1. Link your blog to this hop.
2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.