As part of the three month mega VBT for the writing guide Many Genres, One Craft, Calum, The Secret Writer, and I are hosting the Secret Writers series.
There’s a common misperception that using a pseudonym is about “hiding.” There are certain instances in which that could be part of the explanation (e.g. teachers who’ve written romance or erotica, only to be “outed” and forced to face scrutiny from parents or their employers).
While I cannot speak for other authors, I can say that in my case, nothing could be farther from the truth. We live in the day and age where a world of information is at our fingertips, literally. If I’m giving a talk or a radio/internet interview, there is realistic potential for a listener to Google me in moments. To ensure they find me quickly, they need to be able to spell my name upon hearing it and, I’m sad to say, the correct spelling of my birthname seems to elude the average ear. I’ve seen everything from Irvin to Irwin to Erwing.
The decision to take a pen name seemed unavoidable; however, an equally critical decision was which name to choose? I wanted a name at the beginning of the alphabet since, when readers are browsing the shelves/catalogue, they tend to begin at the front of the section.
The first full-length novel I sold was a sweet romance (In Perfect Harmony) to Avalon Books. It was set in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, and was about a young woman struggling to catch a break as a country singer who crossed paths with a country superstar suffering burnout from the pressures of the business. This was a world I’d heard stories about since I was a little girl, given that my grandfather was country music singer/songwriter (Jack Adams—Little Jimmy Dickens’ “Geraldine” was most popular song).
Choosing the name Adams was a perfect fit. It provided a name that was easily spelled upon hearing; even better, it allowed me to honor the name of my grandfather (whom we lost to a stroke in 2003). In keeping with the pattern of my birthname (first and last names start with the same letter), I took Alayne Adams.
While my initial motivation to take a pen name/s had to do with marketability, I have also discovered another reason. Authors are frequently asked for their autographs, sometimes a picture, too. One of the Seton Hill faculty shared an experience in which a “fan” repeatedly asked for an autographed picture (rather than a book), and his persistence seemed odd given that he made the request multiple times in a short span.
No one knows the individual’s true purpose for the request, however, it did generate interesting debate among faculty and students. Your picture, signature, and personal information—together, these represent a practical red carpet to an identity thief, however, a person who doesn’t “really” exist wouldn’t have that same concern.
To date, I haven’t had any difficulty in bouncing between my “identities.” Using a pen name actually helps the writing process because I have to think about exactly which “hat” I’m putting on as I write. I get to shake off the worries I might have in my “real” life and immerse myself in “Alayne’s” world for a while.
For those of you wondering just how you go about indicating a pen name to your editor/publisher, I do it in the header of my manuscript: Ervin (w/a Alayne Adams) – IN PERFECT HARMONY – pg. x.
Hopefully this information will help you decide if a pen name is for you, or it will help you understand why some of your favorite authors might choose one for themselves.
Elaine Ervin has written two novels (published by Avalon Books) under the pen name Alayne Adams and is currently working on her third. She is also an adjunct professor of English and is on a quest to learn to make the perfect barbeque recipe (both sweet and spicy).
LINKS: Alayne Adams - http://www.amazon.com/Alayne-Adams/e/B001JS86VM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1304027129&sr=8-1
Many Genres blog - http://manygenres.blogspot.com
In Perfect Harmony - http://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Harmony-Avalon-Romance/dp/0803498624/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_1
The Not So Simple Life - http://www.amazon.com/Not-Simple-Life-Avalon-Romance/dp/0803477538/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_2
Many Genres, One Craft - http://www.amazon.com/Many-Genres-One-Craft-Lessons/dp/0938467085/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302017939&sr=1-1