Saturday, June 13, 2015

Query question: more on noms de plume

You've addressed the issue of using a pseudonym a few times both on your agent blog and on Query Shark; this is a very specific question about using a pseudonym for different genres.

I publish articles, personal essays, and longform creative nonfiction on a variety of subjects, many of them related to political or social issues and all of them under my real name. As I was preparing a query letter for a mystery novel I've written, I was thinking that publishing it under a pseudonym might be a good idea.

I'd like my fiction to entertain readers, including those who might avoid it if they disagree with real-name-me's public stance on various issues. I've also found that, as a reader, if I'm really engaged in the essays of an outspoken nonfiction writer, I am, for no reason I understand, disinclined to read their fiction. I think it's a feeling of being happily sated by their mind and words through their creative nonfiction. (I'd be very curious to know what your regular blog commenters think about this, if they experience it.)

Do you have an opinion on this? If so, how would you suggest addressing it in a query? Is any explanation needed or just my name followed by "(writing as Carkoon Carrie)"? Or is this a question an author and her agent would figure out together?

I think it's entirely reasonable to separate your fiction from your non-fiction.

I originally intended to say I didn't share your disinclination to read fiction by writers who also have a strong non-fiction presence.

Then I realized I did.

Some of it comes from wanting the people who write non-fiction to be expert in their field. Why else read them if not to find out about things from a reliable knowledgeable source? I don't feel that way about fiction writers at all. I just want to be entertained. 

Loretta Ross doesn't have to be an auctioneer for me to love her debut novel DEATH AND THE REDHEADED WOMAN (Midnight Ink: 2015)

On the other hand if Miss Ross is writing non-fiction about the auction world, I do want her to know what she's talking about, and not, as when she's writing fiction, making it all up.

But I also have a client who writes both fiction and non-fiction with the same name for both, and it seems to be working out just fine.

There's not a right way/wrong way here; you should do what you think is right for you. If writing your fiction with a different name feels right, do it.

As to how to do it:

If you're going to inform the agent that you will be using a pen name you can follow this format:

Thank you for your time and consideration,
Beatrice Buttonweezer (writing as Charlotte Mountbatten-Windsor)

If you're NOT going to inform the agent that you're using a pen name at the query stage, you follow this format:

Thank you for your time and consideration,
Charlotte Mountbatten-Windsor


french sojourn said...

I just love the constant information on this site.

Cheers Hank ( writing as Felix "The hacksaw" Buttonweezer)

Stephen G Parks said...

Not quite on topic because this is about a writer writing in two fiction genres…

Iain Banks wrote “mainstream fiction” as Iain Banks, and Science Fiction as Iain M. Banks. It wasn’t quite enough of a distinction to stop bookstores from accidentally mis-shelving his works. So often I’d see The Wasp Factory in the sci-fi section.

On the other hand, I bought and read The Wasp Factory because I found it in the sci-fi section, so maybe it has advantages too…?

AJ Blythe said...

It's not only fiction and non-fiction that authors separate by pen name. I know of quite a few authors who separate fiction genres as well. Of course, I know of some who keep the same name for all. I even know of one author who has two names for books written in the same genre.

As JR said you should do what you think is right for you.

Kitty said...

I think using a pseudonym for your fiction is a very good idea, especially if you've made a name for yourself writing about politics and social issues. Allow readers to become familiar with the fiction writer you.

One suggestion: Don't make your fiction a soap box for your nonfiction writing. It's one thing for the book characters to be political. As the reader, I don't care what the characters' beliefs are. But it's another thing to inject your personal beliefs into your fiction. There is a difference. I don't want to be preached to when I read a murder mystery.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Because of my very specific non fiction needs (a certain narrative style foremost among them) if a non fiction writer I enjoy (Mary Roach, Erik Larson, John Berendt) were to come out with novels, I'd wait overnight on the sidewalk like it was an iPhone line.

Interestingly, this question also somewhat applies to me. An art/gaming friend is collaborating with other friends on a....non-fiction-ish? sort of work and has encouraged people to use pen names. I've agreed to do an afterward for one book and collaborate on another, and these are not likely items I'd list as publication credits (despite those credits being particularly thin on the ground at the moment [like The Cheese, Daily Science Fiction stands alone]). Granted, now I need to come up with an appropriately toned pen name, and I always have such trouble with names, other than when one comes to me from the ether and is just right.

(seriously, of my two good-as-I-can-make-them novels, I've changed a main-ish character's name once, and two secondary characters' names a couple times as well. Thank God for "find and replace").

Sam Hawke said...

Jennifer - Ha! I'm glad I'm not the only one! My MC's name in the current novel was, literally, [Name] for about 8 months. And between 2nd and 3rd draft I changed probably 60% of the names in the whole book (for consistency in language uses). Good old find and replace indeed! Of course the problem is I never got used to the new names. I had a phone call with an agent where she commented on a particular character and I had a serious 5 second mind blank where I had no idea who it was... I'm sure I sounded totally on top of my own material!

Unknown said...

It's true. We are a very divisive culture when it comes to social and politic views. I've seen movies and/or books protested because of a writer's privately held (though publicaly known) views though the movies and said books were not political in nature. So it sounds like a good idea to adopt a pseudonym. The problem might become keeping it that way, aka Robert Galbraith. Would this effect any future publicity? If you were at a book signing, for example, would you appear as you are or as your pseudonym?

Lance said...

Great information that is useful, good to know, and fun to carry home. Interesting lineage on the Mountbatten-Windsor line. Lance, writing as Fillworth Crocker-Dhiel.

LynnRodz said...

Again, what a timely post! So I don't have to tell an agent during the query stage I'm using a pseudonym. Obviously, it will be necessary once I sign a contract with them. Good to know.

Opie, I personally don't mind reading both fiction and non-fiction by the same author. Again, it's the writing that counts. Also, if I'm inclined to agree with your views, I would probably be interested in seeing what you came up with in your novel. So, for me, you already have a fan base.

Colin Smith said...

Would I read the fiction of a non-fiction writer, and/or vice-versa? I have. C. S. Lewis. In fact, I read Lewis the theologian before I ever read Narnia, and I appreciated the consistency between the convictions he espoused in his non-fiction, and the worldview within which he composed the Narnia stories. Naturally, it helped a great deal that I share Lewis's worldview.

The issue is a little more pointed, I think, when reading the fiction of someone whose non-fiction comes from a point of view diametrically opposed to one's own. If that writer has made their views widely known through print and other media, it's hard to imagine they won't use their fiction as just another platform for promoting their views. And if you find those views disagreeable, you're not going to enjoy their writing.

To take, perhaps, an extreme example: Rush Limbaugh is a very high-profile proponent of a particular political point of view. He tends to be a lightning rod, and few feel indifferently about him--they either love him or hate him. Last time I was in my local B&N, I noticed that he has written books for children on what seems to be historical themes. I'm not sure if these books are supposed to be history, or historical fiction, but nevertheless, I have to wonder if he is trying to present historical facts in a way that kids would find entertaining, or is he using these books as a way to teach kids history from his particular political viewpoint. I can't fault him for either. Politics should be about persuasion through reasonable argument, and if presenting one's views through fiction works to that end, then no foul. On the other hand, someone with strong political opinions may wish to demonstrate they can present the facts and understand the various ways these facts could be interpreted. Naturally, the historian will have an opinion, and there's no harm in the historian presenting that opinion. However, as in my example, one's respect or lack of for Mr. Limbaugh will undoubtedly affect how well one assumes he does his job as a historian. Those who think him a loud-mouthed hatemonger will no doubt dismiss his historical writing as cheap-shot, brainwashing propaganda. Those who respect him and consider him a thoughtful, provocative spokesman for their own political persuasion will no doubt find his history engaging and informative.

My example didn't pertain to non-fiction/fiction directly, but I think the same principle applies: if we know the author's non-fiction, we will judge their fiction according to how we view their non-fiction. If we love the author as a stand-up comic, we'll buy their novel expecting it to be a fun read. If we think the radio show host is a whiny windbag, we'll assume the same dull whine will permeate their fiction. Unfair assumptions, maybe? But yes, they are there.

Personally, I like knowing about the authors I read. I'll look them up online, so I get an idea of their background, including their worldview. Does that stop me reading them? Not often, but sometimes. Stephen King's worldview is vastly different to mine, but I still enjoy his novels. He can write characters whose views he doesn't share, yet write them authentically. Anne Perry was tried and convicted for murder, and yet I still enjoy her work. I'm sure if we dig enough we can find something disagreeable about every writer whose work we enjoy. The ones I stop reading are the ones who preach throughout their novels, and caricature those who disagree with them unfairly. An atheist who writes novels promoting the infallibility of science and human wisdom, and presenting all "religious" people as stupid and backward will not get much interest from me. Sorry. :)


Colin Smith said...

Bottom line for those who skimmed through the above: non-fiction writers can write fiction, but if it isn't good, engaging, credible story-telling, I'm not going to be interested. So really, when it comes down to it, the criteria are exactly the same for any fiction writer. It's perhaps easier for the reader to set aside expectations when the author isn't well-known for writing in another field. That's a big hurdle to jump for the well-known non-fiction writer who wants to reach those who wouldn't normally read his books.

I think I've just used up my word count for the day! :D

Megan V said...

I much prefer when authors use different pseudonyms as a way to indicate that a book is going to have a different flavor then their usual fare. I tend to buy books by author and that means I'm not always reading the back blurb. The other day, I picked up what I thought was going to be chick-lit and ended up being horror instead (the store does not separate by genre). I still enjoyed it, but it wasn't what I was expecting, nor what I was looking for. Long story short, I can appreciate where the non-fiction to fiction problems might come into play.

Still, I figure if an author writes well and writes with heart, then the name they choose for the cover shouldn't matter. It's the story that counts.

Donnaeve said...

Interesting question. I wouldn't hold it against them, as long as the book didn't involve their views turned into some fiction account, which would then strike me as preachy/self-serving.

I've never had to consider a pseudonym except once. That was after my first book went on submission. A year later, I was given a choice of going on sub with the second book, but I was told "Because it's so soon after the first, you'd need to do it under a pseudonym."

Who knew? I chose not to do it and instead wrote the third book. I wouldn't have minded a pseudonym. IN some ways, I wouldn't mind a pseudonym at all. There was the pleasure of anonymity in it for Robert Galbraith, right? Well. For a while, anyway.

Dena Pawling said...

Quite a few of the authors in my local RWA group write under two different names, usually because one name is for their erotica and one is for other stuff.

Another of the members never got around to mentioning to her editor [she sells directly to a romance publisher, no agent] that she wanted to use a pseudonym, so she was surprised to find her book on the publisher's website and on the shelves with her real name, which is confusing to pronounce and impossible to spell. She thinks it puts her at a disadvantage because readers will have a hard time asking at a bookstore and/or typing it into a search function. So, if you choose not to disclose it up front, BE SURE to remember to do it EARLY in the process.

I've mentioned here that I use a pseudonym because the state Bar requires me to include my name, business address, and telephone number on the Bar website. I don't operate under any delusion that in these times of computers, my readers won't be able to discover my real name if they made the attempt, but I want it to be another step and not easily done.

OP wrote: “I've also found that, as a reader, if I'm really engaged in the essays of an outspoken nonfiction writer, I am, for no reason I understand, disinclined to read their fiction. I think it's a feeling of being happily sated by their mind and words through their creative nonfiction.” (1) If you feel that way about non-fiction writers you read and enjoy, how would you feel about non-fiction writers with whom you strongly DISagree? Would you be inclined to read, or not to read, their fiction? (2) If this is your own personal experience, you might want to trust yourself and recognize you may have readers with the same opinion and experience.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I could have been Opie but I'm not. I use my real name for my column and real name for fiction because what I write is so innocuous I'm sure it wouldn't turn readers off.
BUT, if my memoir ever makes it to print, my opinions from my op-ed days might just piss off a few BUT I like to think that the yahoos that might agree with me would make up the difference. Delusional I know.
BTW, isn't baby princess Charlotte a little young to be published. I guess she has connections.

Craig F said...

It worked for John Camp so well that he dropped being John Camp.

Anonymous said...

I don't have much to add to this, other than two short notes.

1) if you write under a pseudo, better make sure you love the name. Seems silly but you have to remember people might actually call you this someday soon. Seems silly but once it's set, changing it will only hurt the new platform you're building.

2) platform would be my biggest consideration. If my public opinion were being published regularly in the NY Times, you better believe I'd want a nome de plume. But the Valley Tribune from my little old Minnesota hometown? My mom already knows my opinion and is mad at me for it. And she'll still read my fiction. I'd think even if the national media got ahold of that, I'd be able to downplay it or ride out what little backlash there might be. That's my thought.

If the publication credits your getting are big and impressive, I'd use a pseudo for my fiction. Even if it means losing a bit of audience to gain ones who hate me.

Anonymous said...

aaaaaaaand that's why you proof read... Doh.

Mister Furkles said...

The late William F. Buckley was founding editor of the conservative National Review and also wrote a series of cold war--Blackford Oakes--spy novels under his real name. Other than being anti-Soviet Union, the spy novels were apolitical. Did liberals who like CW spy novels but disagreed with his political views refuse to read his novels? I don't know.

Kitty is absolutely right.

For me, a more important concern is: Can you prevent your political and social views from influencing your novels? Nothing is more off-putting than being preached to on political or social issues. It also results in a poorly composed novel.

The reason is that to persuade a reader to a particular view, it is necessary to write the story as a proof. By doing that, the writer telegraphs the plot in the first pages. Also, the characters are, of necessity to the proof, monochromatic paper-dolls. A favorite writer wrote a 'novel' to oppose a popular belief. I agreed with his view and had previously enjoyed his novels. But that one sucked.

I've quit reading novels by three previously favorite writers who wrote novels as 'morality plays'. It isn't that I disagree with their views—in one case I agreed with them—but it's waste of my time. Maybe it's just me, but I feel cheated when I pay money and time for entertainment and instead receive 'moral' instruction.

S.D.King said...

After a bit of thought, I realize that for reasons on which I cannot put my finger, I also have a prejudice against reading the same author for fic and non-fic. No idea why.
Janet Grant blogged this week about a writer existing "behind a veil" and I guess that has something to do with it.

Happy Saturday, everyone.

Anonymous said...

hahahaha Pardon me while I catch my breath. Seriously, in today's age anyone who thinks their real name is going to remain a secret very long is a bit naive. However, the OP is correct, some people will turn away.

Look at Colin's assumptions about Rush Limbaugh's children's history books. As opposed to wondering what the agenda might be, pick up one of the books the next time you're in the bookstore and browse through them. The character time travels through history with children to give them an adventure in the period. They are of like a Dr. Who kind of thing with a band of kids. They're funny. Kids love them and actually learn about history instead of being bored out of their gourds. God bless someone who can get a child to fall in love with our history and reading.

Yes, the political and social views/writings will make a difference. Look at the brouhaha over Orson Scott Card a while back and he's a mega-star.

'Tis the way of the world.

There was a movie some years ago about a romance author who sets about remaking her brother into a hunk to win his lady love. The lady love interviews the romance author and makes some remark about the goofy romantic name. Lizzie Potts romance author tells her Elizabeth LeFleur or whatever the last name is, is her maiden name.

I would just suggest, as others have, a name you can live with, that's easy to sign, and something you don't mind answering to across a crowded room.

FYI, I have dibs on Whiffenpoof.

Lizzie said...

There's also Elizabeth Gilbert. Call me naive, but if you have a fan base why would you want to start from scratch marketing-wise. You're not trying to get everyone on earth to read your book, just 50,000 or whatever it takes in single day transactions to be a NYT bestseller.

Anonymous said...

People have many reasons to use pen names. The original poster's reason is one of the most common ones.

Jennifer: Using a pen name for a project doesn't mean you can't use that project as a publishing credit. When you do so, you would just say something like, "I collaborated on My Friend's Book, writing as Changeable Penname."

As for people who write fiction and non-fiction - I would need to read both to decide if I like both. I don't normally have any preconceived notions without a review of some sort.

I disagree that a novel influenced by a particular view is necessarily preachy or bad. All novels are influenced to some degree by an author's views, and not everyone will agree with them. But that doesn't make them bad, uninteresting novels.

I do agree that novels should never be preachy. Most people who read fiction want to be entertained, not preached to. The novels that have the most impact on society have views that are subtle and almost unnoticed by the readers, yet stick with the reader long after they've finished the novel.

Back to pen names: I completely understand the need for pen names to separate genres or categories, to make it easier for readers to know what to expect from a specific work by the author. And not every writer who uses a pen name does so to keep their fans in the dark about who is really writing something.

Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb are the same author, but J.D. Robb's books are different enough from Nora Roberts' that readers might get confused.

The same with James Scott Bell and K. Bennett. JSB writes legal thrillers. K. Bennett also writes legal thrillers, but the main character is a zombie. Most people who read thrillers are not interested in zombies, and most who like zombies aren't interested in realistic thrillers. Two different audiences, two different names. Two different places in the bookstore.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: What was my assumption? I stated two very different possible assumptions I might make based on Mr. Limbaugh's public image. I don't think I was giving an opinion, or saying what I thought the books would be like. I just meant this as an example of how one's public persona could influence whether or not someone ever reads one's fiction. That's all. :)

Anonymous said...


"One suggestion: Don't make your fiction a soap box for your nonfiction writing. It's one thing for the book characters to be political. As the reader, I don't care what the characters' beliefs are. But it's another thing to inject your personal beliefs into your fiction. There is a difference. I don't want to be preached to when I read a murder mystery."

Agreed. If an author wants to espouse their personal social and political opinions, feel free, but don't cram them down my throat in a thinly veiled excuse for entertainment. Obviously, if I'm reading AMERICAN SNIPER, or LONE SURVIVOR, I understand what I'm reading about. If I pick up a novel and the author is busy trying to convert me to their agenda, I'm not finishing the book and I'll never pick up another of their books. Don't try to manipulate me. I raised three boys. I recognize it.

I write strong females in my stories. I'm not writing to an agenda. I'm writing interesting people. Period.

Someone commented they loved that my stories were so uplifting for females and had such a strong feminist slant.

I contained my growl, barely.

Years ago, about 1971 to be exact, on the ranch my stepdad announced we were going to build five miles of new fence that summer. The ranch is on one side of the fence and Teddy Roosevelt National Park is on the other side. The North Dakota Badlands are gorgeous, but they are rough and building fence is not for the faint of heart. Five miles of new fence was going to be a herculean effort especially since we'd have to pack a lot of equipment in my foot as the country was too rough to get a pickup in.

I said, "I'm a girl. I can't build fence."

He handed me the post hole diggers. "You've been liberated. You're equal now."

Right about then, I wanted to go out and find one of those twits burning her bra for equality and strangle her with it. So, I got up before dawn to go check artificial insemination cows, come in to grab a quick bite of breakfast, head out to fence where a lot of the danged holes were too rocky for the diggers so I had to break them out with a tamping bar, come in late in the afternoon and go check AI cows again, then help Mom with the woman stuff because I was liberated.

On the plus side, I had some awesome biceps at the end of the summer.

To be honest, women have always been liberated on farms and ranches. Praise the Lord! I guess.

No, I am not writing to advance the great feminist cause. It irritates me when someone even accuses me of that.

Anonymous said...


A poor choice of words on my part.

I should have said this assumption and pointed out the phrase:

"or is he using these books as a way to teach kids history from his particular political viewpoint."


Anonymous said...


Everytime you open your mouth(or perhaps your keyboard, more accurately), I think I like you more. :)

It's interesting what Opie said up top - that s/he is curious as to what the commenters on Janet's blog will say. Sometimes I read an Opie post and I think "oh boy... Colin is gonna blow his top at that" or "I bet Julie has a story that'll hit the nail on the head for this one" ect.

It's truly entertaining and interesting. A good cross section of writerly humanity.


Donnaeve said...

I'm back b/c I must read Julie's stuff when she tells us a story...(love that pic of the pioneer women!)

Back to the Galbraith thing. I have this bad habit of assuming people know what I mean. I sit here and type out some thoughts - maybe like two, while twenty two are rattling around. And I don't give you those other twenty, b/c I'm believing you're reading between the lines.

Then I re-read my own comment about anonymity and I was SNORT laughing at myself b/c aside from ya'll, some friends and family, nobody on God's green earth knows Donna Everhart! Anonymity ACHIEVED! WHOOP! But in all seriousness, if I were writing about certain subjects, I'd seriously consider pseudo-something.

If Julie has dibs on Whiffenpoof, I guess I'd have to settle for Druscilla Stinkendorf.

Hans said...

Wow, today's post is the burning question of my writing life. Any search of my name will immediately reveal my oft-topical work, often on national sites. Like with Rush, some will like, some not so much. My sense is I'm stuck with the platform I've created, and would not go back to square one with a pen name, even if that would work, which it won't. Two thoughts: one of my novels has characters who organically manifest varied positions on the political spectrum. And: aren't there enough people in either tribe to yeild success, as long as you don't obviously preach or moralize, and have talent?

Colin Smith said...

Julie: OK--understood. :)

Colin Smith said...

brian: Blow my top?? BLOW MY TOP??! Are you implying I'm given to angry outbursts??! HHMMMMM????!!!!


Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Sam Hawke: one of the name changes was one of those "oh, that works so much better" kind of deals. It just wasn't right the first time around, and is oh-so-right now. The other, I still can't remember if I settled on Penny or Polly..... (and hope I was consistent, at least, and didn't pull a James Fenimore Cooper. She's not my heroine, at least)

BJ: Oh, I know I can still use it as a pub credit. I'm just not sure if I would or not. Which is not to cast aspersions on my friends project, and it isn't exactly outside my purview anyway. Just...reasons. <.< >.>

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Julie, since we're on the subject of liberation and independence, what were we liberated to?
The right to work, earn a living, (earning less), while doing all that other women's stuff too. I wanna live (nice) on one paycheck. I wanna have nails not worn down to nubs, I wanna not be so tired, so worried, so dang-blame frustrated.
Do I want someone to take care of me? Nope.
Problem is my husband works his butt off too.
I just want less of hafta and more of wanna.

I call dips on Felicity Bigcity. It's a sex in the city for seniors kind of name don't cha know.

Anonymous said...

And of course there should be a "by" in there instead of a "my". Sigh.

When I was getting divorced my name became an item of contention. Usually divorces get hung up on custody of the kids, pets, wedding presents. In my case, it was the name Weathers.

Ex: "Will she have to give up the name?"

lawyer: "Well, that's up to her. She can change her name back to her maiden name if she wants."

Ex: "I don't want her having my name. She can't have it."

Lawyer: "You gave it to her when you married her."

Ex: "Well, now I'm taking it back."

Me: smiling sweetly "Indian giver. You can't have it."

In other news, I know this will come as a shock, I have managed to irritate someone so severely they had to block me on a writer's forum. I simply am so dense I can't understand how much I, an unpublished writer with a "wordy and chatty blog thing", could learn from transcribing her novels which were published 20-40 years ago in exchange for a co-author billing as she re-releases them. She won't even charge me for the final edit on her books, which she used to get good money for.

Oh the places I'll go and the things I'll learn if I just weren't too stupid to recognize this opportunity. I could put my name up in lights.

Which reminds me of another stupid Julie story. Yes, it's raining, which brings out the stupid.

Back in the day, Don the ex was rodeoing. Two bronc riders decided they wanted to swap saddles, but they didn't want each other's saddles. No, that would have been too simple. Jim wanted Brandon's. Brandon wanted Sonny's. Sonny didn't want Brandon's, but Jim found someone who wanted Brandon's and paid Sonny.

Now Jim and Brandon were both champion bronc riders, but Sonny was hanging up and getting cow killed just about every time they cracked the gate. Bugs was listening to all the trading and got to thinking about it. He'd been on 90 horses that summer and only bucked off three, but still hadn't been in the money all year. He gave his spurs to a young kid starting out and told him to go put his name up in lights, he was done.

So, Brandon got the saddle he wanted. Jim got the saddle he wanted. Sonny wound up without a saddle, but they figured they saved his life. Bugs sent someone down the trail to rodeo riches and glory or at least down the road.

Sam Mills said...

There are plenty of good reasons to use pen names, especially to distinguish genre types for readers who don't like them all. It doesn't even have to be a secret that you are using different names (though in this case I understand the writer does not want the fiction audience to necessarily know about the non-fiction content)-- you can always put all of your pen names on one website so hardcore fans can follow you across genres.

Kate Larkindale said...

I've used a pen name. I used to write and publish a lot of short fiction, but because it was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to publish my YA novels, when I had some of my racier pieces of short fiction accepted, I published them under a pseudonym. Just in case… Wouldn't want one of my (still imaginary) YA fans stumbling across a nasty piece of zombie erotica!

DLM said...

Julie, I wouldn't think of a pseudonym as a way to completely obscure someone's real identity, just a separation. While no secret can be expected to stay that way, a pseudonym isn't a secret necessarily. Many of us know plenty of real names - Clemens, Evans, Dodgson - but when we think of their creative works, it's Twain, Eliot, and Carroll we think of. It's what we now call "branding", and it can be really important.

I didn't sense the OP shopping for a cloak nor a dagger, given this question. Just considering a way to remove from work which isn't related to it, the presumptions which might come with their existing, explicit bents and prejudices. At a guess, that may be because the fiction IS free of the nonfiction's editorialization. Seems like a reasonable strategy to consider.

Kitty said...

Julie wrote: I said, "I'm a girl. I can't build fence."
He handed me the post hole diggers. "You've been liberated. You're equal now."
Right about then, I wanted to go out and find one of those twits burning her bra for equality and strangle her with it.

I'm still laughing over that one!

AJ Blythe said...

Thought about this overnight and remembered an author (using a pen name) I read who I really enjoyed and bought more in the series. Until I discovered the real identity of the author. They'd been jailed for murder in a case that made headlines here. I couldn't read that author again because of that association (they wrote murder mystery and it just made it too creepy).

Anonymous said...

Jennifer: There are *always* reasons. :)

Julie: You what? You gave up fame and fortune doing... what was it? Something a a good text-to-type program could do on books that were good enough to be published decades ago... Seems like this person wants a typist, but doesn't want to pay a typist (which could turn out to something like a dollar a page), and instead is hoping that something she self-publishes is good enough to have your name on and save her $300... Doesn't sound like she figures it's going to make a ton of money, anyway.

You'll probably be more successful without the weight of her works on your name pulling you down.

Captcha wanted me to choose ice cream. The example was ice cream cones. The actual pictures to choose were a dish of ice cream and something that might have been a float or milkshake or something.

Anonymous said...


Yes, I'm very upset about giving up fame and fortune, but I shall live with it. I'm used to it.

I'm gnashing my teeth because a beginning writer such as myself could have learned a great deal about punctuation, dialogue, structure, and prose, by typing material written by an accomplished author.

"You are banished forthwith from the Kingdom of Writing... under pain of death!"

I weep bitter tears and drink Shiner Bock tonight.

Anonymous said...

Julie, if that's not a reason to drink Shiner Bock, I don't know what is. :)

Antonia Malchik said...

Oh! And yes, DLM has it right -- I'm not looking for total anonymity (my spouse works in privacy and security risk management; I've got no illusions left about that), just a demarcation line, whether one calls it an identity or a brand. It can free up expectations about the writing style, too.

Antonia Malchik said...

I seem to have cross-posted myself. I wrote all these nice things about all of you and must not have sent it for moderation. Most of which is -- thank you for the great thoughts and advice. I've been reading this blog for a long time but never commented before because y'all thoroughly cover the bases every time.

Megan pinned part of the problem nicely -- the disinclination to see out an essayist's novels being due to a "flavor" in the writing. Or maybe I'm just not in love with their nonfiction enough to be curious about their fiction.

Most of the people who follow my nonfiction don't read genre fiction (I had a really hard time finding beta readers among the writers I know), so that readership wouldn't translate over anyway. Luckily, my parents gave me a ridiculously long name that's easily mine-able for pseudonyms.

Julie M. Weathers, I could read your stories all day long. Talk of writing flavor -- I can taste the prairie dust on my tongue from your words.

Patricia Harvey said...

As a former newspaper features writer, I am very interested in reading fiction by non-fiction writers. I automatically give them more points for potentially bringing more fact-based material into their work - greater accuracy.

Personally, I would think of the people who've already read my stuff as a potential fan-base. At least they'll know I can punctuate a sentence. I picked up Anna Quindlen's novels because I loved her newspaper column. The first book I read by Niall Williams, now one of my favorite authors, was O Come Ye Back to Ireland, which is memoir or maybe creative-non-fiction. That book led me to his works of fiction, such as Four Letters of Love. So my vote would be to hang tough and use your real name.