Wednesday, June 25, 2008


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?



  1. Amarinda Jones was supposed to be a character in one of my books. When our editor said find another pen name to separate my two styles of writing (good idea by the way) -I just said how about Amarinda Jones? So absolutely no thought went into it at all...

  2. I've been Dakota Rebel for almost twenty years now. The name started in middle school, when I was writing TERRIBLE poetry and it has followed me to my current genre as well.

    Dakota - I don't remember where it came from. I had thought it was because I LOVE the Dodge Dakota truck, but to be honest I don't know if those were around when the name started.

    Rebel - My favorite David Bowie song is Rebel Rebel. So I always knew that would be the last name of my "fake" life.


  3. My first one was MJ Stine. My agent told me to change it, as 'romance writers are more apt to buy a female author'. So I simply went with my hubby's first name. Kenzie came about because I morphed my maiden name and my dad's first one. Voila!

    And yes, wanted something easy to remember and spell!

  4. Kelly Kirch is my pen name. Kelly is my real name. Yes, inventive. And Kirch is a portion of my actual married last name. No one would remember the whole thing and I wouldn't blame them. Besides the double hard "kk" sound strikes at the memory.

    My maiden name would have been just as good "Kelly Carver" but I wanted to provide a piece of anonymity to my family while honoring my relationship with my husband.

    Honestly, if I had it to do over, I'd have picked a different last name all together. This one causes a personal pinch but I'm stuck with it.

  5. Yep. I have one too.

    Brynn is what I intended to name my daughter. I ended up with only boys.

    Paulin is actually one of my names.

  6. So Anny is not your real name???

    I use my name. When I came to choose a pen name my husband was disapointed I wouldn't use our name, so I dropped the idea. Besides, Mona is easy to remember and there aren't many around. Actually I discovered one very nice homonym recently. If I decide writing erotica I will go with a pen name. Something unusual but easy on the tongue.

  7. I suspect laziness is part of the reason I use my own name. And vanity. When my first book came out, I wanted everyone to damn sure know who had written it. When the first erotica launched, I thought about a pen name. But one of the erotica's was a spin off of one of the earlier books...way too complicated. I left my real name on and to heck with it. My kids are boys and old enough not to care. My dad only sees the books I show him, and I don't have a day job to protect. My husband works for a university, and his office gets a huge kick out of what I do.

  8. Like most, I chose a pen name for privacy reasons.

    NJ is actually my the initials of my first and middle name. Walters is my maiden name, not my married one. :-)

  9. I use my real name for some of my work and a pen name for other bits. I chose to have a pen name so that it wouldn't be quite as easy to connect my erotic romances with my real name. I no longer actually care about that and it is more about a difference in what the reader can expect.

    Elyssa was a character in a story I once wrote that got me in trouble with the critique group because it was too racy. It wouldn't have even made the cut for Ellora's Cave, but they were outraged. Edwards came from my grandparents who did most of my rearing when I was young.

    If I had it to do over again, I'd probably have used a pen name for both.

  10. Regina is my sisters name. I wanted to choose the name of someone I dearly love and I love her. She'd just gotten home from a business trip when we discussed this stuff on the phone. A last name stumped both of us so we started thinking about inanimate objects. She rummaged through her purse and pulled out a reciept for the Carlisle Hotel where she'd stayed. I changed up the spelling a big. Would prefer to have used my real name for my erotic work but my MOM has a gigantic stick up her butt.

    The only thing I really knew was that I didn't want to be FIFI LARUE or any other stripper name.