Saturday 9 October 2010

Do we write under our own names?

It's a question we all get asked, isn't it: do you write under your own name? I've never understood why anyone wouldn't do so, unless, of course, s/he was ashamed of what s/he was writing, or had a very dull name, or wrote in different genres. A great-aunt of mine - a very black sheep indeed, especially considering the times she lived in - wrote a book about prostitution called "To Beg We Are Ashamed", which I'm sorry to say was almost certainly autobiographical. But otherwise, why would one change one's name? I think all MNWers write under our own own names , don't we?(unless someone's pretending to be someone they're not...)

But if I had to choose a pen name, it would be Matilda Davenport. She was my great-grandmother, and I think hers is a magnificent name. It has a touch of gravitas (which Frances Garrood most certainly does not).


  1. Your gt aunt sounds fascinating!

    I've used half a dozen different names over the years for various reasons and they've mostly been based on family names.

    I think Matilda Davenport is lovely! She sounds like a crime writer, a lady who knows her stuff.

  2. Among the MNWers, James McCreet is pseudonymous.

    I'd get confused if I had to use more than one name...

  3. You're right, Frances, for some reason most people assume that authors write under some kind of pseudonym. I can't count the number of times that I've explained this is the exception rather than the norm.

  4. Hi Frances, That is a good question and one which I touched on in my post 'With Murederous Intent'.
    The tutor told me that judges often pidgeon-hole authors, so if you are known for chick lit they don't take you seriously for crime etc., so a pen name gives you that equal chance of being judged for your story's merit and also frees you up to be that other author. :O)

  5. Actually perhaps I'm not being entirely fair, in that I suspect we all want a name that stands out a bit (not least, when Googled!). And Jane Smith (for example. Sorry Jane) doesn't exactly do that. Also, I'm cheating in that I do have two names to choose from; Stott as well as Garrood (Garrood being first - deceased - husband; Stott being second husband). Macmillan were keen for me to be Stott, but I stuck to my guns as Garrood is more unusual, and in any case, I'm rather fond of it, and all my kids are Garroods.

    Alis - I guess you're lucky in that your name has a very unusual spelling (at least, I think it's unusual?)

    Madeleine - I agree about the pigeon-holing. But I still hanker after Matilda Davenport, and I'm keeping her in reserve in case I ever do branch out into anything else.

  6. The genre thing is the biggest reason.

    Nowadays a pseudonym isn't much of a guarantee that you can't be connected to the work.

    There are also authors (Ellery Queen comes to mind) who were two writers working together, and rather than publishing as "by X and Y" decided to invent a Z. I can see the sense in that. (I'm still not quite sure how you go about writing a novel with somebody else--although Aliya and Neil managed it.)

  7. I use a pseudonym, for a handful of reasons. I'm feeling boring and didactic, so I'll do a list:

    1) My legal name is on case reports from my time of the forensics lab. It's a little exaggerated, but I'd rather not have it just jump out at people that, "Hey, the guy the wrote this also writes fiction." Defense attorneys in murder cases and do crazy stuff with innocent things.

    2) My legal name is on my thesis and a handful of other academic publications and research reports. Same kind of idea as up there.

    3) I work for a religious institution. They don't censor me, and I don't think they would censure me, but my writings would make my co-workers extremely uncomfortable, and I don't feel the need to rub it in their faces.

    4) I started using this name for my writing when I was a wee pubescent, so it's almost part of getting in writer's mode.

    5) Because I write from a pretty intense first person POV most of the time, it helps me to keep a little psychological distance between my normal life and the person whose psychology I adopt when writing this material.

    6) Plus, my legal last name? No one can pronounce it or spell it. It's not really complicated, but people think it is. Nevets isn't hard.