Why a pseudonym?

Updated: May 1



I suggest to my students that they write under a pseudonym for a week. That allows young men to write as women, and women as men. It allows them a lot of freedom they don't have ordinarily. Joyce Carol Oates

I’m a special breed of person. My husband has it all summed up in one perfect phrase. ‘All or nothing.’ It’s how I rumble. For example, I either do no housework, because I don’t feel like it or I spend the whole day cleaning every nook and cranny. I eat all the chocolates in the Lindt box, because I love chocolate, or I don’t touch it for months.


I focus on everything I’m interested in. And one thing I am passionate and interested in is writing. All writing. Long form fiction, short stories, poetry, memoir, children chapter books and picture books. I love a variety of genres: literary, contemporary women, historical, romance and thriller. I love to write letters and my weekly blog articles. For me, it’s like being a candy store filled with delectable words and stories.


Some of you might be reading this and saying. How? Or why? The answer is pretty simple. I love to write. To make up stories. To play with words. To use my imagination.


As most emerging writers, I do have a goal; to find a literary agent and to be published – traditionally— possibly as an Indie author. I’m currently on this journey. I’m writing a contemporary women’s fiction and as of this morning, I drafted act one. I also write short stories and poems, submitting them for publication and competitions.


However, and here’s where this all-or-nothing syndrome filters in— I also love picture books. They are a delightful visual and literary art form. I am also a champion of junior picture books because they are a young reader's gateway to sparking their imagination. They help to instil literacy skills in our emerging readers, our writers. At the moment, I’m working on a children’s chapter book that I’m extremely excited about. I have also enrolled in the Writing Picture Books course with the Australian Writers Centre to hone my skills in this genre.


I am journeying down a double carriage road: Adult fiction on one side and children’s fiction on the other. And so, the idea of writing under a pseudonym blossomed.


After many discussions on social media and reading articles on this idea, I’ve decided to write my children’s fiction under a pseudonym. Otherwise known as a nom de plume or pen name. They all mean the same thing. Writing under a different name.


I know some writers manage the cross adult to children’s genres using their own name but for me, I feel that having separate names suits me. My pseudonym is still very connected to me. It's made up of mine, my daughter’s and husband’s middle names. In that order. As the first name is my own middle name, one-third of my pseudonym is still my legitimate, baptised and documented name. The connection to my family is symbolic. I’m who I am because I’m also a wife and mother, as well as a writer. The name fits perfectly.


For some authors, they use a pen name for total anonymity. For me, I am very happy for readers to know who I really am. My pen name will not be a secret.


Your real name is a mortal name. Now you need one that is immortal, the one that takes the high stage and plays above the rest. You can't be immortal and mortal at the same time. Keith Buckley

In my reading, studying and pondering about pseudonyms, I have discovered some pros and cons in having a nom de plume.


Pros

  • To protect your identity. For example, you might want to write sizzling fiction and you don't want your work colleagues, your boss, your mother, grandmother or your students to know it's you.

  • To be private. To maintain and control your life.

  • It gives you a sense of creative freedom. You can write about any topics, characters or events without worrying about people judging you, or wondering if you have drawn on your own or other people's personal experiences.

  • To start with a fresh new start. Maybe you've grown as a writer. Or you are trying a new genre. Maybe you've had a past you prefer it doesn't taint your ability and talent as a writer. Who would have thought that Dr Seuss had a dark past as Theodore Geisel.

  • To prevent being discriminated because of gender, culture or age. Writing stories for boys as a female writer or vice versa. Maybe you have a political stance and you don't want to be judged or socially persecuted. To ensure that it's the story that hooks a reader rather than who the author was. George Elliot who wrote the classic novel Middlemarch was really Mary Ann Evans.

  • Maybe your name is hard to pronounce. Maybe you don't' want to be at the bottom of the alphabet, or your name is similar to another writer. Or you just want to have fun under a whole new persona.

  • You might want try out new genres without the success of your previous genre confusing or disappointing your fan base. I discovered that Nora Roberts, who write successful romance fiction, writes Science Fiction as J. D. Robb.

  • You might have books published with a traditional publisher but would like to try self-publishing as well.


Cons

  • It may be more work, especially if you are prolific on social media.

  • If you want to present at conferences or workshops. It will be difficult to keep your true identity a secret.

  • You already have a fan base that loves your work.

  • If you are not sure about it. Spend the time to think about why you want to use a pseudonym. If the idea keeps coming back then maybe it's something you can do. I thought about it for a year. It feels write and am confident it's the right way to go.


One final point, I researched the legal conditions of using a pen name and discovered a great article on the PodLegal website called, 'Pen names: a useful disguise or a legal risk'.

Two interesting pieces of information I discovered. When an author dies, if their work was written under their birth name, their work is protected by copyright for 70 years from the date of their death. For a pen name, it is 70 years from the date of publication. In Australia, copyright is automatic, regardless if you use your legal name or your pen name. Whichever name is on your work, you are protected.


For any of you who are curious.

My children’s fiction pen name will be Giselle Rose James.


Image courtesy of Daisy Anderson @ Pexels.com

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