Monday, August 4, 2008

Is a pen name a good idea?

As you can see I have a name that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue in one fluid motion. My first name is manageable but my surname has Polish origins that add quite a degree of difficulty to its pronunciation. It is a lot easier than it looks and phonetically is close to Shi-manic. So now you know. But I can't be there in all the bookshops to help anyone who is after one of my books, who can't remember the title and can't pronounce my name. I thought quite a bit about using a psuedonym. I even had access to a not so pseudonymous appellation - my husband's surname Norman - and I could legitimately claim this one as my own. But as much as I love my significant other (SO), my name is an important part of me I can't surrender. I grew up with this tricky thing and all its mispronunciations and mis-uses. By the time I got married it seemed wrong to throw all that good work away. I had grown comfortable with it, and it's distinctiveness was not without appeal. My husband did not mind that I kept my own name and my children don't seem at all bothered by it. What might have been a scandal thirty or fourty years ago is old news now.

But putting my name to a book brung a new set of concerns. Plenty of writers use pen names - Lemony Snicket and Emily Rodda for example. But the name 'Lemony Snicket' was part of the whole conceit of 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' and Emily Rodda had previously published adult historical ( I think) fiction under her real name. My only excuse was a tricky to pronounce handle. Would it prevent people buying my books? I don't know. I hope not because I stuck with my own name for several reasons.
1) Its distinctiveness has the potential to work in my favour. People may remember it better than a blander more everyday name.
2) I couldn't come up with anything clever that I liked better that made sense. Emily Rodda, I believe is at least in part, if not completely, the name of a forbear.
3) How would the people I grew up with and my friends know it was me writing these books. Like the next person I have some pride and want people to know its me.
4) I have heard Emily Rodda speak on two occasions and both times she was introduced as Emily Rodda. This isn't her name. She didn't seem troubled by being someone else, but I was. I realise and own that this is my problem not hers but this made me realise how much I would dislike appearing to be someone else. I have no issue at all with other people using pen names but I want to be the person who wrote my books - me - Melinda Szymanik - so that is the name I am sticking with.


maureen said...

I'm enjoying your posts I spend a lot of time nodding and saying 'aint it true'
I don't use a pen name and I didn't change my name when I married 19 years was a one month wonder then...and my mother chanted you'll be sorry...
My mother in law at last count had four pen names...she writes romantic fiction and each different line or publisher has to have a seperate name...she mostly does a play on her real name.
good luck for your states sub...I'm waiting on one too...
You don't have the slowest publishers around I'm still waiting on a ms sent in nov last year...'we're making a decision soon.....'
yeah right.....


Anonymous said...

tried to figure out how to leave blogger id for you but it wouldn't accept it so if you want to know who I am....

I blame fifi constantly for this blogging craze...however if I sell this book in the states I have promised her never to take her name in vain again....
I could use a pen name for her tho
chantelle coalstone...rosalinda coolstone...


Melinda said...

Hi Maureen

The best things about blogging are meeting new people like you and sharing the frustrations like waiting for publishers to make up their minds. These things help me survive the indignities of this profession.

Maybe I should suggest next years proposed Wellington Childrens writers conference have a special event for bloggers

ps now feeling compelled to anagramise my name to see what i come up with

Fifi Colston said...

How about... Melinda: She's Manic ?
I could use a pen name for the Chick Lit but suddenly Fifi seems such a better fit for that genre than childrens books. Fiona Parkyn (given and married names)seems fine for 'Literary' prose as in...and the winner of the Montana book of the Year is... except I don't do literary prose xx Fifi