Lisa Grace. Only her name isn't actually Lisa Grace. To be perfectly honest with you, I can't remember what her real last name is, even though she told me once. But I remember when she did tell me, everyone at the table (myself included) completely understood why she chose to use "Grace" as her professional last name - there was no way that I could have spelled her last name correctly if I had to do a Google, Amazon, or library search for her. She was especially worried about this because she her YA book, Angel in the Shadows, had recently been published, and she wanted to make sure that teens could search for her name if they wanted to find her. And Lisa Grace is a lot easier to remember than Lisa Eyjafjallajökull (you like what I did there?)
Ever since I met Lisa, I thought the name Lisa Grace fit her, and "Lisa Grace" stuck in my head. Even Laura Lippman, her conference leader at the Eckerd College Writer's Conference, which Lisa and I attended together (and is a seriously amazing conference...seriously), told Lisa that she couldn't help but call her "Lisa Grace" - two names, not one, because they just naturally went together. How's that for marketing?
I have other friends that chose pen names because their last names were complicated. I have female friends who are choosing to write under their maiden names, even though they're married, because their maiden names are either easier to remember or easier to spell, which isn't exactly a pen name but it's on topic. (Conversely, I'm choosing to write under my married name because it's more unique. Though I know I will spend the rest of my life correcting people's pronunciation of it, and that's OK - it's easy to spell and short. Plus when you Google me I'm the only thing that comes up, which is totally awesome.) I have one friend who is writing under her maiden name because her married name is a very specific ethnic name, and she isn't a member of that ethnic group, and she doesn't want to have to think about that down the road.
There are other, more strategic reasons you might choose a pen name. I once heard about an MG fantasy writer who chose a pen name that began with "R" so that he would be shelved next to Rick Riordan and J.K. Rowling - a move suggested by his agent when he was considering a pen name anyway. Speaking of J.K. Rowling, we all know how she was encouraged to use the ambiguous J.K. instead of Joanne to help appeal to male readers. And some writers might use pen names to protect the privacy of their friends, family, or selves (apparently I totally don't care about that).
Don't get me wrong - I'm not advocating pen names as the only way to go here. I'm not using one, and have never even considered it. But I definitely see that there are circumstances when they make sense, and maybe that Icelandic volcano should think about switching. We could call it simply VOLCANO. It would be amazing.
So, writer-friends...how do you feel about pen names? Will you use one? Why or why not? And reader-friends...how do you feel when you find out that someone is using a pen name? Excited that you're in on the secret? Or a little perplexed?
- Amazing pictures from the volcano
- The First Novels' Club Donna Gambale explores pen names, too!
- Hey, so does Nathan Bransford! (See, we don't worry about original ideas in our blog posts, yet we stress over them in our novels daily...I think all of these posts are totally different and yet still valuable and awesome. OK, probably Nathan Bransford's is way more awesome than mine, but he's NATHAN BRANSFORD. I can't compete with that.)