Sunday, April 18, 2010

Why a pen name?

Susanna Fraser is not my real name. Some of my friends have asked why I chose to write under a pen name, and I thought, "Hey, perfect blog topic!"

1) I like naming things. Character naming is one of my favorite parts of a new story, and while I never wanted a large family, part of me envies the Duggars getting to name 19 children. So, how could I pass up the chance to rename myself?

(Incidentally, Susanna is the name I've always wished my parents had given me, and Fraser is from my family tree.)

2) It doesn't matter while I'm published in ebooks only, but if/when I'm in print, Fraser will get me better bookstore shelf placement than my real last name.

3) I write more than one genre, and my fantasy and alternative history is different enough in tone and likely readership from my romance that I'll probably need to publish it under a different name, if/when it sells. So I decided to use pen names for both, to make it clear that I'm proud of all my work. I figured if I wrote romance under a pen name and fantasy under my real name or vice versa, it might look like I was favoring whichever genre got the real name.

4) It makes me feel all Clark Kent/Superman, and I'm geek enough to get a kick out of having a secret identity of sorts.

5) There's something to be said for separate identities, even if I'm not trying to hide the fact that I write books as Susanna Fraser. To wit:

a) If any of my friends and family think my books are too sexy or too violent or too whatever, they can just pretend that Susanna Fraser woman has nothing to do with anyone they know. ;-)

b) I can be politically active and opinionated under my real name, and whatever portion of my readership disagrees with my views won't know about it unless they do some digging.

c) While I don't plan to hide my writing from, well, anybody, there's something to be said for being able to control when and how I tell people. Say, for example, I'm interviewing for a new day job. The general public tends to think authors make a lot more money than those of us not named King, Rowling, or Grisham actually do, so I don't want the burden of having to explain that yes, I really do need a job because most authors aren't remotely rich.

So. That's my pen name story. Maybe some day if I'm short on blog topics, or if there's interest, I'll post about what I would've named 19 children in some alternative reality where I have that many, or, more on-topic, how I go about naming characters.

Writers: Do you use a pen name? Why or why not?

Readers: Does it change your opinion of an author if you know s/he uses a pen name?


  1. My only problem with several pen names is keeping them straight with the author.

    If an author is great in one genre, they should be as great in another genre. If I'm a fan, I'd want to read both names.

    I guess I need to get two pen names as well. One for the kid manuscripts and one for the adults. Then there is my screenwriting...

    As a side note, you have my favorite book of all time listed in your sidebar. Carla Kelly's 'The Lady's Companion'...a fantastic read.

  2. Yeah, writing for both kids and adults is the classic reason for needing two identities.

    The sidebar is randomly generated and changes with each refresh, so it's a great way of reminding myself what I've read, and what's sitting on my shelves waiting for me to find time for!