Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Pen Name: A Discussion

Okay, I know it's been a long time... there are reasons for that. Stupid, pathetic reasons, which are really just excuses. I'm sorry. I've been neglecting my online presence. So, first up, an update. I've been participating in this year's July Camp NaNoWriMo, and I'm well on my way to completing it. As well as that, I'm knitting a Dalek Lace Shawl, which shall also be finished soon. I'm quite excited about both. The last thing which is taking my time is Minecraft, which if I'm honest I never should really have started. But it is such a wonderful outlet for creativity, even for someone who can't draw a straight line.

Now that that's dealt with, on to the actual article. I recently searched, with the help of the NaNoWriMo forums, for a pen name. In two days I had a response, and lo and behold, I now have a pen name. Hannah Laurent. Has a nice ring, doesn't it? It's an amalgam of my first and middle names, swapped. If I ever publish, hopefully it will be under that name.

Of course, why the need for a pen name? I decided a long time ago that my full name was not suitable as a pen name. It comprises of a first and a middle name, plus a ridiculously long hyphenated last name. Those do not make up for the most pronounceable of names, so I was keen to make up something new. Nor did I want to simply chop out my middle name and the last part of my surname, because it sounds bland and uninteresting. Laura Berger. Can you imagine that on the spine of a book? I thought so. But then, maybe I'm being harsh to myself. After all, when Ian Fleming began to write his famous series of books, he picked the name James Bond because he thought it was exceptionally boring. We all know how that turned out.

Then of course, there's the recent news about J.K. Rowling writing under a pen name in order to avoid the stigma which followed her on publication of A Casual Vacancy. Rowling, of course, already writes under a pen name, albeit one not too different from her real name. In this case, I applaud her. She is, I believe, a very competent writer, whether you like her latest books or not. And when I find people putting them down simply because there is no magic or wand waving, I find it very sad indeed.

So, what about pen names?

I find that a pen name will be the mask I wear to sell books; a fake veneer for my very introverted self to hide behind. Even though publishing is the least personal medium of expressing oneself, perhaps I can distance myself from bad reviews if it's not actually my name. Probably not. But I can hope so, anyway. I guess, in the end, it completely depends on your circumstances. Perhaps you are a published children's author who wants to be taken seriously with adult fiction, or you want to keep your sinful writing from the people you know. Perhaps, like me, your own name is just too boring. A pen name, in any case, is a very flexible thing which can be adapted to any circumstance. It can be sexy, serious, mysterious; whatever you want it to be. Therein lies its power.

I hope you enjoyed that disjointed series of thoughts; I promise to return with some more structured material within the week. If I don't, feel free to leave a comment to smack me on the head. Wishing you a very lovely day,

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