♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
Do you use or have you considered using different
pen names for different genres of your writing?
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The short answer is yes. Wanting anonymity is a reasonable request in the field. We all are aware of how things can go south quickly when our words are insensitive or perceived in that manner. Writing is not an easy field to endure. The way the public views the matter: what we write cuts from the same cloth of which we are cut. Pen names pose a truly serious topic.
When I was considering how I would put my name on my books, I thought a long time about the impression it would give. Was I going to gain better respect from a name I put on that book that was not my own? In what way was it advantageous? Is it at all necessary?
While studying at college, discussions frequently ranged around the perception of authors due to various cultural markers attached to them. Whether race or gender affects your ability to garner respect for your art is undebatable. It simply does. Humans have not passed these prejudices, and there are systems in place that keep them going year after year. Until systemic bias is dismantled, such cycles continue.
Therefore, I wondered how the perception of me as female impacted my work and public reception. A health dose of experience since first publishing has largely confirmed what we discussed in those college courses. From the woman shopper at my first book signing incredulously realizing I had written the copies to which I was adjacent to the dismissal of my degrees and expertise by family members and colleagues alike because of their familiarity with me and the perceived gender that did not align with being an astute writer. No beard. Nor the bad breath. Not a single pipe. I wasn’t fitting the image.
That right there is why marginalized groups say that representation matters. If we don’t see them fitting the image, we doubt them. No, we shouldn’t, but we do. The human brain loves patterns. If the mind detects a bit out of pattern, it wants to boot the difference. Yes, I well know that People should perceive each other this way. However, the brain conditioned not to function this way instead of encouraged to do so is more rare (as society has done for millenia to manipulate power and control over minds).
The option to use my name versus some other name became a point again when I decided to straddle two seemingly disconnected genres. Thankfully, that notion easily went to its final rest. Whether I am writing something that is dark fantasy or something other-wordly, I am still using culture and history to inform the tale. Likewise, there is an air of noir to everything I write. Thusly, they were very much interconnected.
When I chose to go ahead with my real name, little thought focused on the fears of notoriety versus anonymity, and the over zealous reader. How many individuals will actually read my books? Well, I hope millions, but the reality is that is unlikely to be a problem that I face in my lifetime. Perhaps, they will discover my books post mortem and make my gravesite a problem for the cemetary owner. Still quite doubtful.
Choosing to use my initial for my first name was then down to gender concerns and spacing on the covers. As I have written about before, the use of K was an homage to my great mother who went by Kay (short for Katherine). K’s feature prominently in the names of my family members. It’s our thing. My brother calls himself K2 because he is a second. I wasn’t going with K3. My dad went by his middle name until later in life. Thus, I just took the single K. I did not go with Kay because I was not my grandmother.
Settling on the name printed on the front of my books did not hide my gender from anyone, except at first glance. Once you see my photo on the back, the gender notions will clearly fall into place. However, the initial faces forward, and once the book is in your hands, you’ll flip it round to check out the back, and hopefully your hot little hands cover that photo while you rip through the blurb. By then, if I don’t have you, then my photo is neither here nor there. In my informed opinion, that reader judged me for my content and not my appearance. Further, there was no erasing myself.
In the end, I pushed back against anonymity. I rebelled at the idea of disconnection from the body of work I struggled hard to produce and of which I was quite proud. Attitudes around bespectacled and tenured professors be damned. I worked damn hard on my books and my education that trained me in the field. If a person refuses to respect me because of their perceptions and surface factors, then they’re not my reader anyway. The journey through my story would just make them further upset, and I only wish them to be peaceful and harm no one.
That said, there are some amazing great pen names both modern and historical. Every author chooses what works best for them. That choice deserves respect. In these pen names is a level of ability in creativity that speaks volumes about their writing. That doesn’t mention how simply fun they can be.
One other aspect, which I nearly forgot, is the financial impact factor. Using a pen name may cause issues getting paid properly or raise questions about income reporting to the government in the United States. A pen name is seen as a business name. As such, many businesses require registration and their own tax number. What a headache! I was not prepared to take that mess on.
Pen names serve a multitude of functions for an author. They should be considered with care and worked on just as hard as the book on which they eventually rest. Be sure to click on the links below to read what the other authors have to say on this topic. They may have tips for those looking to apply a pen name to their writing. Don’t forget to drop your email in the box on the top right to have this hop sent to your inbox every Friday! See you back soon.