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21 January 2011

You know what didn’t used to make sense to me? Pen names. I used to think, “hey, why are you not writing under your own name? Are you not proud of what you write?”

I think I get it now. Sometimes, you just don’t want to answer questions. A lot of very talented writers I know also work for a living — in the normal office jobs you might see in any movie where the main character has a “soul-crushing job.” I, myself, get up every morning and go to the office. I don’t wear a shirt and tie or anything, but other than that, it’s pretty much the movie-standard office job.

When I was out for the book release on Monday, I found out that someone at my office had put my book up on the lobby slides — anyone going near our office building basically saw an ad for my book every couple of minutes. I thought (and still think) of it as an incredibly sweet thing to do, and I have no problem talking about the book with anyone who would ask.

But it’s also my first big book release, and it’s military sci-fi. Those kinds of things are easy to talk about in an office environment, and someone overhearing won’t think you’re too strange for having that conversation. Erotic romance? I have no experience there, but I’d assume it’s a whole different ballgame.

Where I used to see pen names as a way to hide from your own work, I now see them as the author’s version of Batman. Bruce Wayne can still go be Bruce Wayne without the Riddler trying to come in and bonk him over the head, and my writer pals who write under pen names can still be themselves without answering all sorts of questions or drawing too much attention. . . until they go home, put on the bat-suit, and crank out more stories for the rest of us to read and love.

What do you think, folks? Pen names a good idea? Ever thought of using one?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 January 2011 0742

    I have thought about it, not because I want to avoid questions about my work, but because I might want to separate the different kinds of work I do. For some extra income, I find it necessary to write articles that go through a copy-editing team. They aren’t very well policed and often edit in errors and change the tone so that it’s not really my voice anymore. Also, I’ve thrown my hat in for various projects that didn’t exactly turn out the way they were supposed to, and I’d rather not be judged by the lack of professionalism and quality of work displayed by others in the team.

    I also know other people who do write erotica who use pen names for the very reason you mentioned above. They don’t want to put their day jobs and casual acquaintances in jeopardy.

    • 21 January 2011 1054

      Indeed. That’s another thing I thought about — separating genres or bodies of work. Still, it’s like your bat-suit — you’re Bruce Wayne for some of the stuff, and Batman for the others. It’s just a different origin story. šŸ™‚

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