Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Barmy? Ain't! (Or: Thoughts on Pseudonyms)

A pie chart showing what writers do should devote the largest slice of pie to, well, writing. But a tiny (and DELICIOUS) sliver may be apportioned to some things that aren't really that important - but an author who agonizes over every little detail and nuance in her story may find herself agonizing over the non-writing bits of writing as well.

Like - what's your name, Author? Shall you boldly, brazenly use the name your parents bestowed on you, discounting the fact that they never in a million years (at that point, at least) thought you would write a novel, let alone actually get published and thus failed to equip you with an awesome writerly name like, you know, Shakespeare McBrontepants or Prousty Dickensian.

Many writers, of course, use their real names. Some go with a pseudonym, which (if you're fancy) is also known as a nom de plume or (if you're unfancy) a fake name. Why a fake name? (I am decidedly unfancy. And yet not fancy-free...) On a serious note, some writers use a fake name because real harm will come to them if people know they wrote those words. Physical harm, emotional harm, economic harm, political harm... the list goes on and on. I would guess that many LGBTQ writers have thought about using a pseudonym for that reason. Some do, some don't.

Some authors may choose to write under a different name not because they fear harm, but because they don't want people to know they wrote that particular book. Ah, if only their parents had had the foresight to name them Porny O'Pornstein.

Other authors may choose one or more nom de plumes for marketing reasons. They may want to clearly separate their works in one genre from another. My second book, ROMEO FAILS, is so different from my first, SHADOW POINT, that I actually did think for a minute about using a different name. But no - I'm too in love with ROMEO FAILS! :-) I want my name on that book. And despite its differences (no ghosts, 3rd person, a protagonist who's not so much like me), it's still an "Amy Briant book." Whatever that is!

One more reason an author might create a pseudonym is also marketing-related. Just like all those Hollywood stars who started life with "too normal" names like Norma Jean Baker or Marion Morrison (Marilyn Monroe & John Wayne, respectively), some authors have "simplified", altered or flat out changed their monikers so their author names would be... what? Easier to remember? Easier to say? Sexier? Cooler? Something like that.

So, assuming that Amy Briant IS my real name... :-) If I ever do decide to use a pseudonym, it will be just for fun! Who wouldn't want to have a cool secret identity, at least once in awhile? Why not embrace the full author experience and use a nom de plume on a book or two? Although how would that work if I actually had a public reading or some other event to attend in person? Trenchcoat, wig and fake moustache? (I assure you it would be fake.) Hmmm... Phantom of the Opera mask? In which case I'd only need half a fake moustache?

And what name would I choose? Because I have clearly have entirely too much free time, you will probably not be surprised to learn that I have given this way too much thought already. :-) Of course, I could just make up something completely out of the blue. (I'm ruling out O'Pornstein now, just to let you know.) But I'm a big fan of obscure double meanings. If I went through SHADOW POINT with a highlighter to show you all of those, there'd be a whole lot of yellow going on! So, perhaps I could take other names that have meaning for me and construct a new one for myself. Or, better yet, take my own name, mix up the letters and see what happens. (I love Scrabble!) With my vowels and consonants and "sometimes Y", there are a lot of real-sounding names I can create with a-m-y-b-r-i-a-n-t. (don't send me suggestions, please - I assure you I've already been through all the permutations and combinations)

And even more unreal-sounding ones. My new favorite: Aint Barmy. Maybe that could be my Lemony Snicket name, so to speak... I'll save that one for a series of odd picture books for children. Aint Barmy... I like the sound of that. :-)

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