Pen Names

I have recently read various scathing condemnations of writers who use pen names. Some commentors called authors who use pen names cowardly, others said they couldn’t trust someone who did not use their own name for a pen name.

So that got me thinking. Why are people so upset about this? An author does not owe you their life story. They only write the book, and you either like it or not. That does not have anything to do with who the author is. (Unless the author is a serial rapists writing romance, for example, I can see an issue with that.)

And there are several reasons why someone might write under a pen name. Maybe their family/friends would condemn them for what they are writing; think for example of erotic romance writers. Maybe they would lose their job if their employer found out they wrote sexually explicit books in their own time. Maybe their name is very similar to an established writer. You can ask Jenny Trout how much grief it caused her before she changed her name. Maybe they have always disliked their own name or maybe their name is difficult to pronounce.

Personally I think it is an author’s choice what name they want to be published under. That won’t make an author appear any less genuine to me.

After all, to quote the great Bard: What’s in a name?

4 thoughts on “Pen Names”

  1. In writing short stories (or should I say starting short stories that I usually never go back and finish) I have often thought about using a pen name. I don’t see anything wrong with it. Especially if your pen name adds another level to the writing. Like if you are writing something dark and have an ominous name, or a love story with a sensual name, it just adds a little something to it

    1. I expect that is the case for most of us writing adult fiction. And it’s a shame sexuality isn’t more accepted (and therefore adult fiction too), as there is nothing shameful in celebrating sex. But there you have it. We still have a long way to go in that respect.

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