Writing Under a Pseudonym

Pseudonym, pen name, nom de plume, literary double—whatever you you call it, there are many reasons for using an alternate name when you publish your writing. A few big reasons are to reserve your real name for other works, maintain some level of privacy, general marketability, and to have a fresh start (for established writers as well as fledgling writers).

Reserving your Real Name

Photograph by Edward Liu, distributed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Photograph of Stan Lee by Edward Liu, distributed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Stan Lee is probably the biggest name in comic books. He co-created Spider-man, the X-Men, and many more beloved comic book characters. The relatively recent success of Marvel movies made him more of a household name and exposed his sunglasses-wearing face to countless moviegoers through numerous cameo appearances. Anyway, I bring up Mr. Lee because “Stan Lee” started out as a pen name. Born Stanley Martin Lieber, the comic book legend created the pseudonym of Stan Lee because he wanted to use his real name for more serious, literary work (as opposed to comics). After immense success as a comic book writer, Lee eventually legally changed his name to match his pen name.

Privacy

Some folks simply want to be able to go about their lives without being tightly tied to their pen name and its related works. Most authors don’t have a problem with people recognizing their face in public, though sometimes their ID or credit card might give away their identity when they’re out and about (e.g., bouncer in front of a club checking your age, or paying with plastic).  A pseudonym would solve this problem. However, when you’re super-famous (i.e., your work spawns hugely successful film adaptations) like J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin, people might recognize you on sight; paparazzi even start following you around. Your pen name won’t help much at that point.

Of course, many of us would gladly trade away some privacy for such success. Continue reading

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The DNA of Bestselling YA

What makes a Young Adult novel (commercially) successful? That’s a very important question for all YA authors, agents and publishers. Here’s my breakdown of five big-hitters of YA, considering author inspiration, premise, theme, and cultural context (note: I’m just another person writing stuff, and not proclaiming myself as some all-knowing god of fiction).

Warning, there may be some spoilers, but there aren’t many big ones, so read on!

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Everyone’s favorite oblivious-to-love heroine.

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

Inspiration

Suzanne Collins has stated that The Hunger Games is “very much based on the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur” wherein the Athenians were required to send seven youths into a labyrinth where they are faced with the deadly Minotaur (no mention of Battle Royale, though I would assume that Collins at least saw the name while researching). The catalyst for the story came when Collins was flipping channels and seeing young people compete in reality shows, and other young people dying in real-life wars.

Work and Context

Commercial and mainstream fiction generally relies heavily on the premise. The Hunger Games‘ handles that quite well: the young, poor, and attractive are forced to fight to the death while Continue reading

J.K. Rowling’s New “Harry Potter” Short, Thoughts

Image of J.K. Rowling

Photograph by Daniel Ogden, distributed under CC BY 2.0.

If you’re a Potter fan and haven’t already done so (unlikely), you might want to log into Pottermore and check out the Daily Prophet for J.K. Rowling’s short (told through Rita Skeeter’s gossip column, 08 June 2014).  You can likely find the short posted elsewhere if you don’t have a Pottermore account, but why do that if you can sign up for free and join me in Gryffindor (assuming you have what it takes)?

Rowling’s short provides a bit of insight into the lives of Harry Potter and company following the battle at Hogwart’s.  It works as a very good teaser if Rowling intends to go back to writing about Hogwarts.  At the end of the short, Rita Skeeter mentions her book on Dumbledore’s Army will be available to the wizarding world on July 31st.  Maybe Rowling will announce something then?  Seems unlikely, but we can hope.