On the Ellora's Cave editor's blog--Redlines and Deadlines--they have a contest in progress to come up with the worst pen name. There are some pretty interesting ones on there. Over the years I've run across some decidedly strange ones. There was a time when it seemed like all the romance writers were named Valerie. Elizabeth Peters even wrote a very funny mystery based at a romance writers convention. In her book all the romance writers were named Valerie except for the lone male writer. I think he was named Valentine.
So why do we choose pen names? And how do we choose them? The why is usually relatively simple. We want to protect something. Privacy, family, or job are the usual suspects. It's amazing how often family and job figure in the reason for a pen name. And there are a few authors that have several pen names because they write in multiple genres. Jayne Ann Krentz would fall in that category.
But how we choose them fascinates me. When I was choosing a pen name I wanted something easy to spell, easy to remember, and last but not least, easy to query on the internet. Even so, you would be surprised how many Anny's there are. I deliberately chose a surname with a letter close to the beginning of the alphabet because I found that searching through a long list of author's names quickly became boring. Unless I was very, very determined I usually quit by the time I hit the E's or F's.
There are all sorts of reasons for the ultimate choice of a pen name. Some women use their maiden name or middle name or the combo of their children's names. Others honor family members or close friends or even ancestors. Some flip through a baby name book in search of something unusual and unique. A few use a play on words that refer to their genre.
I suspect that the choosing process would make an interesting study for some enterprising student. What do our choices reveal about us? What about you? Do you have a pen name? If so, how did you decide what it would be?