Sunday, 27 January 2013

How many pen names should you have?

Or should you have one at all? I know that many people write under their own name so why would you choose not to? Perhaps because you feel your real name is too long, too difficult to pronounce or doesn’t fit the genre you’ve chosen. Maybe you don’t want your employer knowing that you write erotic fiction in your lunch hour or maybe you simply fancy adopting a completely different persona. I decided not to write under my own name for some of those reasons and chose Isabelle Goddard for the six Regency romances I’ve published. I have a website under that name, a facebook page and a twitter account.

So why not continue with the same name when I jump genre? Giving myself a second writing name could be hard work and create problems. I might confuse, even annoy, readers who know me as a writer of historical romance and who might buy the new book under that impression. At the same time, I am only just getting known in the writing world so is it sensible to begin again with a new name? Wouldn’t it be better to build on the audience I’ve so far managed to create? The consensus seems to be that if your new genre is similar to what you’ve been doing, stick with the same writing name. If it’s radically different, choose a different one.
But how similar are we talking? I’m still writing historical but I’ve jumped a few hundred years to a very different period – the 1930s instead of early 19th century. There will a small amount of romance but it’s not central and what novel doesn’t have a little romance? The new book will set up a mystery, threaten my heroine’s safety, and hopefully make some thoughtful social comment in the process. That’s quite a long way from the feel-good escapism of Regency romance.
And if I do decide to go for a different writing name, the first problem I’m going to face is What? Isabelle was one of my mother’s names and Goddard my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. Because of the family connection, I felt comfortable with it and it sounded right for a romance author, though I could be wrong. The point is that it took me an age to decide on it. Finding another name that has meaning for me will be difficult enough, but finding one that sounds right for a mystery series could take longer than the books themselves!

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