1. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Living with a Pseudonym

    Discussion in 'Traditional Publishing' started by Catrin Lewis, Jan 14, 2017.

    Those of you who have pen names and who are far enough along with your writing careers for it to matter, how have you dealt with living with it?

    I mean, out in person. When you go to writer's conferences, do you get your badge in your real name or in your pseudonym? How do you introduce yourself?

    What about in your face-to-face writers' group, if you have one? Do you have people call you by your legal name, or by your pen name? If you opt for the pen name, how long was it before you stopped feeling like a faker or wondering, "Wait! Who is it you're talking to?"

    What about in your author email account? I have a Gmail account under my pen name, and all my writing-related mail goes to it. I still haven't gotten used to signing my messages plain "Catrin Lewis," copping out instead with "My Real Name, writing as Catrin Lewis," or "Catrin Lewis, pen name for My Real Name." Using the pseudonym alone feels strange when I'm discussing writing with old friends who have become writers, too. (I try to do our personal catching up on a different email account, separate from our discussions about writing.) And I don't think I've ever even dreamed of signing off with only the pseudonym when I'm emailing friends and relatives who are beta reading for me. But maybe it would be more professional if I would stick with the pseudonym alone?

    Does it make a difference if you've got published work out there, where your public face is "Pen Name, author of That Cool Book"? Is it the done thing to go with that, whenever your writing is involved? And at book signings (those of you who have had them!), do you have people address you by your pen name, or do you encourage them to call you by the one you go by ordinarily?

    @Brindy, I noticed that in the articles your local publications did on you, they stated that you wrote as Brindy, but gave your real name and called you by it all the way through. Do those of you who have pen names agree that that's the usual procedure?

    Any stories, experiences, thoughts appreciated. Thanks.
     
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  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I don't do any public events or anything. I keep my writing life totally separate from my real life, so there's rarely a time when it wouldn't be clear whether I should use a writing name or my real name.

    I use my real name with agent, but that's because she conceivably represents ALL my pen names, so it'd be weird if I decided to correspond with her using just one of them! With editors and publishers I usually use my pen names, because I'm not sure my editors actually know my real name (the MS would have my pen name on it, and the editors don't write cheques or anything...)
     
  3. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Like @BayView I don't do any sort of public events and would be unlikely to as I too keep my writing life separate from RL. I do not need my employer, customer contacts and conservative family members knowing I write explicit gay romance. It would have to be a really big payoff or opportunity for me to blow my cover, like getting on the NYT bestseller list or having one of my books made into a movie.

    I use my real name and regular email address with my publisher and editors, though I often sign off on emails RealName/Laurin. I post on Twitter as Laurin Kelly exclusively and answer to Laurin there. It's really not that weird for me though; I was a professional belly dancer for ten years and performed under a stage name, so I'm used to dealing with people knowing me by something other than my real name.
     
  4. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I may be doing this pseudonym thing all wrong already because a lot of people (including most of the middle and high school kids I sub teach for) already know I'm writing novels. An English teacher (and former pro editor) at one high school has offered to read over my ms for me, so she knows my pen name, and I have other teacher colleagues who want to be notified when it comes out. Ditto my RL friends and family. A great many of my beta readers are people I know in person. No way of disguising from them that the work is mine.

    Then, too, the larger writers' org I belong to sponsors local book fairs and signing events. I want to be there for those, and people who attend are going to know that the author is me. I mean, I.

    I may be whistling past the graveyard, but my plan, hope, assumption is that people will like the story and connect it to the Catrin Lewis whose name is on the cover, and willingly forget the Real Name Me behind the pseudonym.
    ________________________
    *I don't tell the kids my pen name, not because I think they'd be shocked at anything I've written, but because their parents and the school administrations might be. But I'm not really worried about the kids outing me even if they did find my novel online. My stories aren't YA and a teenaged reader would probably get bored two pages into the Look Inside.
     
  5. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    What was your reason for writing under a pen name in the first place?
     
  6. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Because I do writing on a professional basis (not for teaching, but in another context) under my real name and don't want that and my fiction works conflated; because occasionally I use incidents from my long ago and far away past in my novels and don't want people from those days (with whom I've lost contact) to come across my stuff under my real name, assume it's all a roman à clef, and think they're learning about all my Deep, Dark Secrets; because my real name is long, awkward, and clunky and would look ridiculous on a book cover; because naturally I'm a terrible introvert and a bad marketer who'd feel uncomfortable and exposed if her real name were on the cover, whereas under the pseudonym I can assume a persona who isn't afraid of all that.
     
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  7. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I'll also add that my pen name is much more aesthetically pleasing than my real name, so that's a plus. My last name is hard to spell, hard to pronounce, and has a guttural sound to it. It doesn't flow off the tongue or look as pretty on a book cover as my pen name does, that's for sure.

    Fun fact: Kelly is actually my maiden name, but I haven't used it for over 22 years so I doubt that will clue in anyone to my true Clark Kent identity.
     
  8. Brindy

    Brindy Senior Member

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    It's a good question. I've used Brindy as an online identity for several years, so have got used to being called it on screen, but it did come as a bit of a shock when someone first used it to my face. If the only reason they know me is through my book they instinctively call me Brindy, and I don't find that a problem so I don't get into the whole'that's not my real name' conversation. I do remember having to practice signing my pen-name for book signings, and so far I have always remembered to sign with Brindy and not my real name. I have an author email linked to my website, which I can use for book stuff, but anything official or receipts go in my real name for tax purposes. I did buy a special pen for book signings, and I only use this when I am in Brindy mode, it helps remind me what I should be signing.

    The main reason I chose to use a pen-name is that I have been spelling and pronouncing my name for over 50 years and, as I have chosen to write for children, I thought it would be better to have a simpler name on the cover. It also gave me a chance to involve my mum's name, who I lost when I was 11, which was important to me. It was never about separating my real identity from my writing identity due to the nature of content I write, but I can see that would be a huge consideration if my subject matter was likely to cause raised eyebrows within my circle of friends & family.
     
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  9. G. Anderson

    G. Anderson Active Member

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    I always use G. Anderson in any writing circumstances, whether face-to-face or not. But it might be different for me because it's just my initial and not really a pen name, but yeah, I am always just G. when I am a writer.
     
  10. Trina Lynne

    Trina Lynne New Member

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    I decided on my pen name years before I started my writing career. Once in my career, I wasn't in the public much in the beginning so there wasn't any issue. Now, I use my pseudonym in everything that I do. Anything that involves writing or the literary world, my pseudonym is a part of it. My pen name is a brand and flip-flopping from my real name to my pen name would be a huge No-No. When it comes to contracts and things like that, my real name is on it along with my pen name, however, there is a clause to keep my real name private. Those who need to know my real name, already know it, so there are no discrepancies. If you meet me out in the street, I say, "Hi. I'm Trina Lynne." :)
     
  11. Solar

    Solar Contributor Contributor

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    I once lived nextdoor to a Susan - a complete dragon.
    Terrified the shit out of me.
     
  12. Lucifette

    Lucifette Member

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    I'm having issues picking out a pen name. What was the inspiration behind what you guys picked?
     
  13. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Laurin is a play on my real first name, and Kelly is my maiden name (which I have not used in over 20 years).
     
  14. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Middle name plus neighbourhood I grew up in, middle name plus street I grew up on, middle name plus family name...
     
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  15. Brindy

    Brindy Senior Member

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    Combination of pet dogs names and mother's maiden name
     
  16. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    I kept my surname and picked a first name I liked. No rhyme or reason to it.
     
  17. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Real first name Welshified (family heritage); my pseudonym surname is my middle name converted back to what it should have been per family custom, if my mom hadn't feminized it.
     
  18. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic

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    I haven't actually published anything under it yet, but I use a pseudonym. I made it by picking a surname I liked, the name of an old pet for the first name and then the name of a pet I have now for the middle one. Middle names are not necessary, of course, but then I shortened it into two initials + surname and I think it looks good. You're more likely to like the name you pick for a long time (as opposed to liking it for a bit and then one day suddenly hating it) if it means something to you.
     
  19. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic

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    On a side note, I just thought: do you all tell your friends and family your pseudonym? Or do you keep it a secret from everyone?
     
  20. LachlanMM

    LachlanMM New Member

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    Not a pseudonym, per se, but my wife and I hyphenated our names...but people keep shortening my name to firstname + wife's original surname. Not sure why, but I've started using it because her original surname is way easier to spell than my original surname.
     
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  21. Lucifette

    Lucifette Member

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    Whenever I do pick out a pseudo and get published I will only tell close friends and family. They at least deserve to know my work. Now whether they keep that information to themselves is another story :meh:
     
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  22. Lucifette

    Lucifette Member

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    Thanks for making me think about that. That is a really good point.
     
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  23. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    I'm very lax at keeping my identities separate. Most people I've met under my author name know my real name, and most of my non-writing friends know my author name. I write for a living (non-fiction) so even people at work know I write fiction--it isn't an embarrassment like it might be in some professions, even though I write sexy books.
     
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  24. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    The handful of friends and family who know that I've published know my pseudonym. Mostly so that I could ask them to buy my book!
     
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  25. Lucifette

    Lucifette Member

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    I'm so conflicted over this. Having too hard of a time trying to come up with something without feeling so "fake." I'm nowhere near being published but I feel like I should at least have this part under my belt long before I get there. I know I'm overthinking it. Just listen to me complain for a little bit :supergrin:
     

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