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Pen Names and Pseudonyms

November 14, 2010
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I was thinking a lot about this topic the last day or so, thanks to a post made by James over on Men with Pens.

Saundra and I are going to be expanding our writing style in the next few months with our first speculative fiction novel. 312 Days is going to be a novel that explores what could have happened in the days following Amelia Earhart’s famous disappearance. It’s conjectured that she ended up crashing near modern day Nikumaroro Island, which was then called Gardner’s Island. There is a lot of archeological evidence that points toward that course of events, and that’s the hypothesis we’ll be exploring. I could go on and on about that project, since I’m super excited about it, but I’ll leave those interested in the concept to follow THIS LINK to the Tighar site and watch the video about it.

Which brings me back to my original intent for this blog post: pen names and pseudonyms.

“C’mon, Kris. That’s a pretty big leap, even for you!” I can hear you shouting across cyberspace. Let me explain. 312 Days will be the first non-erotic novel Saundra and I write. Since it’s so very different from our other works, we’ve bandied about the idea of using slightly different names to write under.

There’s a lot of reasons to write under a pseudonym or not write under one, but for us, I think it’s a rather standard thought process. When you write for completely different genres, it isn’t unheard of to use different names in order to establish yourself separately in each genre. It’s also a way for a writer to try to have a certain series of books be distinguishable from another series. (The best example I can come up with off the top of my head is Anne Rice, who wrote her Sleeping Beauty trilogy of erotica under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure. The trilogy was written around the same time as some of the Vampire Chronicle books, but she obviously wished for them to stand on their own.)

For Saundra and I, it’s a matter of making it easy for our readers to know what to expect in a novel from us. When you read something by S.L. Armstrong and K. Piet, you can be relatively sure that it’s erotic romance of some sort. As a hypothetical alternative, when you pick up a book by Seraphina Armstrong and Kaitlyn Piet (which are NOT our real names, by the way XD), however, you would be able to see that we have identified ourselves differently on purpose. In that situation, we could have chosen completely different names like Whatzer Name & I. Dunno, but we didn’t.

I think we both want to exude pride in our work by labeling it with a different permutation of our real names. There would be a certain satisfaction on my part, being able to hand a copy of a non-erotic book to my parents (who won’t read my erotic work just because it’s not their preference) and see my recognizable name on the cover along with my co-author’s. As even James said in a comment on his Men with Pens post, handing the print book over with a pseudonym on it just doesn’t have the same glow.

I guess what I’m trying to say in all this rambling is that Saundra and I will likely use different permutations of our names for our non-erotic fiction, just to distinguish it easily from our erotic works. I figure if I ever branch out into young adult (YA) or children’s fiction — however unlikely that is for me — I’ll take on a completely different name, which is typical enough so your really young readers don’t get their Hungry Caterpillar style book somehow mixed up with Reginald’s Quivering Member. (Which won’t be a title for one of my books. Promise. XD)

With K. Piet, I’m able to use a gender-neutral name for my erotic fiction. There’s a lot of stigma to being a biological female who writes M/M Erotic Romance, but even though I’m pretty darn open about being female, I don’t want that state to somehow be the deciding factor for people who may or may not buy/read my work. I want my fiction to speak for itself, so removing my sex from my name helps me a little in that respect.

On the flip side, my non-erotic fiction name is one I still have to decide on. Using Kristi Piet has flitted through my mind, but that takes me back to the sixth grade, when I changed it from Kristy to Kristi because I wanted to be Kristi Yamaguchi. (I was a competitive figure skater at the time. Give a kid a break for having some hero worship issues!) Honestly, I’m just not sure. I normally go by Kris, but would Kristina sound more professional? Opinions on that, anyone?

Now, to put the topic in your hands… Do you work under a pseudonym? What are your reasons for using (or not using) one? I’m curious to see what others think about this!

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