It looks like I’ll be owing a couple of books because two readers asked questions that seemed nicely connected.
Jaclyne Laurin wrote:
<<I’m fascinated with pseudonyms. The why (were you embarrassed to use your real one?), where (did you get the inspiration for your pen name?), how (did it come about?), who (gave you the idea for it?).
I think that I’d use a pseudonym (or in my case a ‘Nom de plume’) because I’d be worried I wouldn’t be taken seriously as an author, by the people closest to me. Become published under another name and THEN let it be known that you’re that person who wrote the book…
For those of you who write under a name different than the you were born with, what’s your reasons?>>
And RevMelinda asked:
<<Word Wenches, are you all "celebrities" in your communities? Is your authorly identity underground? Can you go about your day/activities freely? or do people whisper and point at you wherever you go? (And depending on your answer, is that fun or not?) >>
I will not answer in an orderly fashion. I have never been known to do anything in an orderly fashion. That includes explaining the writing process–another question I loved, BTW, but there are only so many one can jam into one blog. And my question is, Does taking on two questions at once make me a Question Hog?
I started writing fiction and plays in grade school and had a pseudonym then, so perhaps I always assumed I’d have one. Either that or the alternate identity was a manifestation of the Gemini personality.
Some publishers encouraged/required pseudonyms. Mine didn’t. But it was an easy choice for me, for several reasons. (1) I had been doing it since elementary school, (2) I thought that one who wrote Regencies ought to have an Anglicized name, (3) Chase is easier to say, easier to remember than Chekani, (4) I wanted a secret identity, and (5) the author me isn’t the other me–I am not quite myself while writing the books, so it only seems fitting to have a name that is not quite my name–but this may be the same as (1), and reflects a state of affairs I recognized in childhood.
Having this secret identity makes it very easy for me to move about my community–or any community, actually–unrecognized. Not being Reese Witherspoon also makes it easy. The fact is, writers, unlike performers, don’t do their work in public. It isn’t a daily part of our job to have our pictures in newspapers and magazines. We toil quietly in our rooms–some of us wishing for that immense library/studio we’ve been fantasizing about since signing the first contract–and tend to be startled if not alarmed if a new acquaintance, upon hearing that we are a published author, shows any signs of viewing us as a celebrity. A great many of us tend to be introverted types, for whom celebrity has extremely limited appeal.
I am slightly a celebrity in the public library but only with certain librarians. A couple of years ago, when I was researching Mr. Impossible, and seeking help from one of the research librarians, another came to my rescue saying, “She doesn’t know who you are, but I know who you are.” Then she led me down into the secret bowels of the library where the uncatalogued materials were. Frankly, that’s the only kind of fame I really want: the level of notoriety that gets me into, not The Restaurant or The Club, but The Secret Places of the Library.
I would gladly exchange Red Carpet time for time with the crumbly old books and maps no one else is allowed to touch.
Meanwhile, I walk the supermarket aisles unmolested, visit the art museum unpursued by paparazzi, eat in restaurants without being asked for autographs–except for the credit card slip, on which I write my given name anyway.
I am pretty sure I can go almost anywhere (except a romance writers conference) and do almost anything (except sign books), certain that my secret identity is secure. I don’t even have to change clothes in a phone booth–a good thing, since they seem to have become extinct in the U.S.
What about you? Have you ever wished for a secret identity? Or would you rather be famous? How do you feel about pseudonyms?