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What’s in a Name?

I’m trying out a pen name. Since I’m going to be writing nice, sweet, little Regency romances under this name, there’s no particular reason to keep it secret.

Some people do. They want to keep their politics separate from their writing life, genres apart from each other, or just for fun. All perfectly acceptable reasons, though I’ve never personally seen or heard a reader go, “Ew, this person writes fantasy AND sci-fi! Yuck; I’m never reading any of their stuff again,” as long as the writer and publisher are careful to indicate which book is which. However, if you’re writing ultra-conservative Christian fiction under one name, it might be advisable to put your super sexy erotica under a different name, because those genres aren’t even remotely related.

I’m trying out this pen name as an experiment. Don’t worry; readers of this book aren’t going to be kidnapped in the middle of the night, driven to a creepy-looking laboratory, and subjected to a battery of weird tests. The experiment is to see if the average reader of sweet Regency romance really does look at the author’s name, or not. I took a poll on the subject a few weeks ago, on a genre group that I belong to, and the results were somewhat inconclusive. This may have been operator error- I asked a bunch of questions in the poll, all related but they could have caused some confusion. I mostly got a lot of information about choosing a pen name- it should be memorable, in keeping with other authors in the genre, and have personal meaning so you don’t forget your own ‘name’.

And you may have noticed that I have a rather odd first name, to make up for my bog-standard last name. Mom thought that Blake was a girls’ only name, apparently; she could never understand why I didn’t like it. Having a unisex name causes a lot of minor confusion, which I usually don’t mind nowadays. But if it’s causing people to pass over my books, that’s a problem.

So, new name. I’ve always liked Anna, but my DH won’t let me use it for a kid, because one of his friends is called that. And Ferreira is Portuguese for Smith, which amuses me because it would have been DH’s middle name if not for a very strong-willed ancestress (not who you think; this lady was born in the late 1800s, IIRC) who wanted the kids to have HER name and no one else’s.

With any luck, it’ll help me rope in some new readers. If I’m really lucky, they’ll become fans; the few of you currently enjoying that status must get bored. And I know you guys. When you’re bored, the walls get painted in a pink camo pattern, suddenly there are baby alligators in the bathtub, nine thousand bottles of booze and ten thousand pieces of bacon, and a disco ball hanging in the living room.

Have a book, instead. Christmas at Blackheath is a sweet little romance, perfect for some light reading in between putting up the tree and baking a mountain of cookies. It’s on sale until Friday:

Agnes Rawlins would never dream of showing a melancholy face to her brother’s guests. She may be a spinster, and treated little better than any common housekeeper, but she is responsible for bringing Christmas cheer into the dark and rambling Blackheath Manor, and she does not shirk her duty, even when she has little reason to celebrate.

William Marlowe, Viscount Claridge, has reluctantly accepted an invitation to spend the Christmas season at Blackheath. It’s not his first choice- how anyone could wish to spend time in the gloomy manor house is beyond him- but when he meets the kind and gentle lady of the house, he find that Christmas at Blackheath might not be so bad after all.

Christmas At Blackheath emile vernon

  1. Having a unisex name causes a lot of minor confusion, which I usually don’t mind nowadays. But if it’s causing people to pass over my books, that’s a problem.

    Hehe, guess you saw that idiot over on Insty who was howling about a “man” writing romances….

    December 11, 2019
    • Blake Smith #

      I didn’t see it, but that’s pretty funny. It’s not like most authors have a bio right on the book’s amazon page, or anything ridiculous like that.

      December 12, 2019
  2. Seawriter #

    My first name is Mark. At one time I was doing hobby articles for children’s magazines. I was getting a lot of rejections. Once I typed a query letter listing my name as Marj instead of Mark. I caught it during proofreading, and corrected it it. Told my wife about it at dinner. She said I should have left it Marj and see if my rejections were due to being male. I thought about it, but finally decided against it.

    December 11, 2019
    • I’ve been strongly tempted to create a victim group checklist pen name for myself, as we’ve recently seen a lot more of the “men are not allowed to write women characters” balderdash. Something that fairly screams “lesbian woman of colour with power wheelchair and seeing-eye dog”.

      But then I think it seems more fun to just be what I am, a straight WASP male conservative (small c please ~:) and watch them freak out that I dared even speak.

      When all you have to do to generate a shitstorm is show up and say “good morning”, you should show up and say it all over the place every day.

      December 11, 2019
  3. I thought about a pen name ,decided against it (so far) BUT, I expect my forthcoming series will pop so many circuit breakers of the Christian kind, I may be forced to resort to one in the future.
    ( think Deadwood/Game of Thrones/To Sail Beyond the Sunset levels of sax and violins.

    December 11, 2019
  4. Mary #

    The one thing to remember with pen names is that you want it to be the name of a writer, NOT a book character.

    December 11, 2019
    • TonyT #

      Except in the case of Ellery Queen…

      December 12, 2019
      • Mary #

        It’s the authors who think they are high fantasy characters who come up with the most absurd ones, or so I have heard reported. (SF could probably also do it.) Contemporary mysteries have their limits.

        December 12, 2019
    • mrsizer #

      So nothing too Slavic (no vowels), too Hawaiian (no consonants), or with an apostrophe (or, heaven forbid, more than one). Sigh. So much for M’rk.

      December 16, 2019
      • That mean I can’t use my last name?Although the antics of the Martin O’Malley, the loony lefty from Maryland, made me super motivated to emphasize we were NOT related.

        December 17, 2019
  5. JC cOLLINS #

    Okay, that’s enough. YOU! Over there to the bench with Sarah and all the other White Mormon men! (Stalks off in a glow of intersectional righteousness).
    (OMG! My spellcheck doesn’t recognise ‘intersectional’! Patriarchy! Rassis! ‘Elp! ‘Elp! Oi’m bein’ microagressed!)

    December 12, 2019
  6. TRX #

    My name is typically American – a mishmash of Jewish, Chinese, and French. And an astronaut, a couple of ball players, and at last three writers share it. If I were to start writing fiction, I’d be well advised to pick a pseudonym, if only because I couldn’t compete against PR agencies and Search Engine Optimization used by others with the same name.

    Like the infamous donkey between two bales of hay, I’d be stalled at making the decision of going with something ordinary-but-genre-suitable, or something so ridiculously over the top it would be memorable on its own…

    December 12, 2019
    • Go with the one you wouldn’t mind being broadcast all over. You’re a guest on TheBigTalkShow and $HOST announces you…. THAT name. The name Timmy down the street can yell to call out to you… and not earn hisself a whuppin’. The name your banker would LOVE introduce you as, to sucker.. er… impress potential new clients.

      But what do ox know?

      December 12, 2019
    • My first choice of pen name . . . happens to belong to well known personal injury and plaintiffs’ attorney.

      December 12, 2019
  7. I’m trying out this pen name as an experiment. Don’t worry; readers of this book aren’t going to be kidnapped in the middle of the night, driven to a creepy-looking laboratory, and subjected to a battery of weird tests.

    Well, I just lost interest…. }:o)

    Then, after the Month of Cardiology… it would at least be *different* tests.

    December 12, 2019

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