Discussion Topic: Author Pseudonyms

What are your thoughts about authors using pseudonyms in place of their real names?

Also, if you can think of one, list an author who uses a pen name to mask his/her true identity. I’ll go first. Robin Hobb’s real name is Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden. From 1983 to 1992, she actually wrote under the pseudonym Megan Lindholm. In 1995, she began using Robin Hobb for her epic fantasy novels.

18 thoughts on “Discussion Topic: Author Pseudonyms”

  1. Stephen King, also, who at one point was writing so many books he or his publisher felt he needed to use pseudonyms else there be a perception of lack of quality b/c how could anyone write so many books so fast?

    I don’t have an issue with pseudonyms. Sometimes it’s the only thing keeping writers’ careers alive, or it allows them to break the genre barrier.

  2. I have mixed feelings about pseudonyms. I happen to know that some romance publishers actually force the writers to use pseudonyms, when I think this should be the *writer’s* choice. I know one historical fiction author who continues to use the pseudonym she created, rather than her real name, though she doesn’t really write romances any more. This bothers me. OTOH, there are some prolific writers who feel their devoted readers in one genre, would get confused if they started writing in another genre under their own name, rather than the pseudonym. BTW, this seems to be a more common practice in the UK than in the US, and is (generally) a device used more by women than men(possibly for personal reasons).
    Anne G

  3. Romance is definitely a genre where lots of people write under pseudonyms, some times multiple.

    In HF,one off the top of my head is Sara Donati, who has also been published under her real name of Rosina Lippi.

  4. Why are romance authors more likely to use pseudonyms than authors in other genres? I can see using a pseudonym if you’re going to cross over to a different genre, like Nora Roberts using J.D. Robb.

  5. Ben Franklin had some pretty clever pseudonyms. He used Slience Dogood to help popularize the first magazine he worked at. He invented two women to mock a competitor that was stealing his ideas, and many more characters for various nefarious purposes. The use of pseudonyms likely contributed to the popularity of his published works.

    Source – http://www.pbs.org/benfranklin/l3_wit_name.html

  6. I had forgotten about Ben Franklin using pseudonyms. That’s a good one. I wonder who was the first known person in recorded history to use a pseudonym in their writings. Whoever can answer that deserves some sort of prize.

  7. Given that romance as a genre, is not considered “respectable” , even today, in many quarters(though I’ve read some pretty darn good romances), I can see why a lot of women who write them, use pseudonyms. Some academic types write romance, and don’t want to be laughed off campus for it, so they use pseudonyms(yes, they are all women, and romance is basically a “woman’s genre”, which is one reason why it’s not considered “respectable”. In any case, the use of pseudonyms has a long history. I don’t think Benjamin Franklin was anywhere near the first.
    Anne G

  8. I use a pen-name, but my reason is that my given name, which is Czech, cannot be pronounced if seen in print, nor can it be spelled if heard.

    Another advantage is that if you choose a unique last name you can “own” it in terms of a domain name as well as in google and other search engines. This makes it easier for fans to find you … for me a benefit that has no bearing right now!

    I agree, though, that it complicates my online presence!

  9. Joan and Richard:

    First, Joan — I think many of the books of the Bible were written that way, too.

    Next, Robert — I can understand why you use a pseudonym. The name I grew up with was unspellable and unpronounceable to many people(and many people still mangle it). My ex’s name was also unpronounceable for most people, in English, though I could probably make a pass at pronuilbnciation in Czech, because I have some familiarity with Slavic languages. Anyway, that is why my name is now Gilbert, which at least has the value of being both spellable and pronounceable. I’m just about the only person in my family who did this, nobody openy objected.
    Anne G

  10. Anne — That makes sense about women authors in romance. I could see why they might choose to use a pen-name. As for the books of the Bible, I wouldn’t consider those pen-names in the same sense as the Iliad and the Odyssey. The various authors who wrote the books of the Bible often did not attribute themselves anywhere in the books, so the authors are more or less anonymous, even though scholars have a pretty good idea about who wrote most of the books. For example, Moses likely wrote the first five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). Other books are more difficult for scholars to attribute authorship, for example the Book of Hebrews (though convential thought says Paul wrote it).

    Joan — I did not realize that about the Iliad and Odyssey. That’s interesting, and yes, I would say that counts.

    Robert — I’m curious, what’s your Czech name?

  11. Steven:

    Some literalists think Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, but these books were written far later than the time Moses was alive. Or at least that’s what “most” scholars think. Of course, I don’t know all that much about it. Some of Paul’s letters are his, others, not. And the Gospels? That’s another bone of contention. I think these books were essentially “attributed” to Moses or whoever, whatever that might mean, but the authors were “somebodyat else. What might have happened could have been something like Beowulf: somebody wrote down an oral tradition that came from Moses, but transmitted over generations. We just have no way of knowing.
    Anne G

  12. I don’t profess to be a Biblical scholar by any means, but maybe Robert (above) can give us more insight. I know he has a B.A. in Biblical & Theological Studies.

  13. Steven,

    My given name is Hajicek, currently pronounced Hi-check, or Hi-ya-check in the old country. (Let’s just say as a kid I had trouble with the HIJK part of the alphabet since my name has them in a different order!) If someone sees it spelled, they rarely pronounce it properly, and if they hear it pronounced, they can’t spell it.

    On the authorship of the Bible, there are different camps of scholars, typically divided between liberal and conservative, and you will get different answers from both camps.

    For me, I believe in the traditional positions as to who wrote down the books in the Bible, with some obvious qualifications, such as Moses couldn’t have written portions that occurred after his death, such as the end of Deuteronomy.

    For the new Testament, the only book I have a question on authorship is the book of Hebrews (the one you cited, Steven), which is one of those anonymous books. There is some small evidence in the text that Paul wrote it, yet the Greek style is different from his known letters. This is not to say he couldn’t have written in a more scholarly style, however, considering his training as a Pharisee.

    Either way, you’re right that these aren’t pen-names in the modern sense, but it is an interesting discussion.

    -Robert

  14. Thanks for the input, Robert. I guess I fall in the more traditional camp as well. I didn’t realize Moses was already dead by the time the end of Deuteronomy was written. Fascinating stuff.

  15. The fact that these books of the Bible were written down long after Moses passed on, is one of the reasons Idon’t fall into the “traditional” camp. But there’s no way of knowing who wrote this stuff down. It was probably, originally, part of a long oral tradition, attributed to Moses. And maybe Moses actually passed some of this information down. But I suppose in the scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter much, one way or another.
    Anne G

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