Saturday, May 6, 2017

Pen Names: A Question of Identity....

A Note from S.J. Francis:

    Pen Names. An interesting thing to use when writing, don’t you think? I’ve been a published writer for over three decades now. With the exception of some writings, I’ve used different pen names.  For me, it was a personal preference, as some reasons listed below. Personally, I always found pen names fascinating, especially when trying to locate which names were pen names and which weren’t; which writer used one pen name and which one didn’t. It was fascinating trying to identify the writer that used a pen name. Not to mention, other more seasoned writers mentioned doing so to keep a name known for different genres. Not too long ago, if you wrote it one genre and wanted to try another, it was recommended to write under another name. Hence, Nora Roberts writing romance under her real name and using J.D. Robb for her mystery/suspense novels. Over the last several years, writing under a pen name for different genres is no longer necessary and a writer can use one name to write under different genres. I’ve written my first novel under my name S.J. Francis, as opposed to using my pen names. Just because….

     What about you? Do you use pen names when you write? Why or why not? Read on for more on this subject from a post I found in Firewords.

Pen Names: A Question of Identity

(This article was originally published on Mike's blog

"Many writers use pen names. I’ve actually never written anything under my real name. But why do writers feel the need to use an alternative guise?

"Speaking for myself, the main reason was confidence. A writer bares their soul when they put pen to paper. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is, what the genre is, or what the setting is; the moment a writer puts pen to paper it’s personal. I went into this writing lark expecting a sea of rejection slips. I didn’t want that level of rejection under my real name.

"Writing under a pen name allowed me to hide, but it also gave me a freedom to express myself in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to under my real name. Back in those early days, only two people knew that I wrote. It’s ironic these days that I barely bat an eyelid at a rejection, and I don’t care who knows that I write. Again, ironically, it’s the continued practice of writing that’s given me confidence and belief.

"The second reason for using a pen name was practicality, or maybe I mean marketability. Most people struggle to pronounce my real surname. If by some miracle of good fortune I happened to get a book deal it would hardly help my sales if people were wandering into bookshops asking for the latest book by Mike (insert long pause) er, I think it’s… You get the point. Even in the workplace I’ve always been referred to as Mike K.

"Let’s look at some professional writers. Shaun Hutson has worked under seven different pen names to date. Dean Koontz has used various pen names. Stephen King had fun with Richard Bachman. Agatha Christie was also Mary Westmacott.

"All the writers above used multiple pen names for reasons of identity. Agatha Christie used Mary Westmacott to separate out her historical romances from her crime fiction. Shaun Hutson’s seven pen names are utilised across seven different genres.

"Identity is important.

"If I want to read a horror story I’ll look for the latest Stephen King, or a James Herbert, or a Clive Barker. If I want to read a historical novel I’ll look for Bernard Cornwell or George MacDonald Fraser. Those writers have a very clear identity in terms of their output.

"I’ll say it again… Identity is important. The last thing a writer wants to do is to confuse their reader.

"My pen name, which has served me so well for so long, is now causing me a problem of identity. Who exactly is M. J. Wolfson? What does he write? Take a look at my genre output:

  • Drama
  • Black comedy
  • Comedy
  • Horror
  • Post apocalypse sci-fi
  • Social commentary
  • Speculative
  • Experimental stream of consciousness
    Can you see the dilemma? I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to utilise more pen names. I know I need to be careful. I’m not sure I’d want to go down the Shaun Hutson route.
    The majority of my work will remain under the brand of M. J. Wolfson, but I’ve already had two stories published as Jane Hunter. I’ve developed a persona and style of writing for Jane which is different to Mr. Wolfson’s.
    One of my other stories The Proposal – accepted for publication but never actually published – is another work that is very different from anything else I’ve written as M. J. Wolfson or Jane Hunter. As a result, I’ve always struggled to know what to do with it after the initial acceptance failed to result in a publication. Lately I’ve considered using a different pen name and all of a sudden I’ve become enthused about the story again.
    I accept that multiple pen names aren’t necessarily the answer for everyone. Dennis Wheatley, although lesser known these days, was a popular writer in his heyday being second only to Agatha Christie in terms of sales.
    Dennis wrote black magic horrors, historical thrillers, murder mysteries, and non-fiction books, and he did it all under the name of Dennis Wheatley.
    It’s like everything else in the creative world of the writer: You have to identify the approach that works best for you and embrace it!"
Thank you all for visiting with us. It’s always a pleasure to meet readers and authors. Until next month, every one please stay safe. Smile. Be happy. Show compassion. Be nice to others. Put a little love into your heart. Please speak up for those without a voice, whether it be a dog, cat, elephant or monkey. One person, one voice can make a difference. Read a book and pass it on. Leave a review. Reviews are important for authors. Believe me. I know. Thank you!

S. J. Francis, Writing is my passion, but animals are my world.
Advocate for the underdog, and cat, and supporting writers, et al.
In Shattered Lies: "It's All About Family." Available now from Black Opal Books and for sale at all on-line retailers and independent booksellers. 
                                              Shattered Lies is a Finalist in the 2016 Writers Shelf Book Awards.

                Shattered Lies is a winner in the Fall 2016 NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards for Women's Fiction.

                Shattered Lies is a runner-up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Indie Best Book Award Competition. 

                     Shattered Lies is a 2016 Reader's Favorite Honorable Mention in the Fiction - Women’s category. 

                     Shattered Lies was a Finalist in the 10th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards.

                     Shattered Lies was chosen as General Fiction Official Selection in the 2015 New Apple Book Awards.

                     The 2nd, New book cover design for Shattered Lies was a Finalist in the 2016 Authors dB Best Cover Contest. 

                    The first, original book cover design for Shattered Lies was a semi-finalist in the 2015 Authors dB Best Cover Contest.

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And now for some legal stuff: Copyright 2017 by S.J. Francis. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the author, S. J. Francis and the guest author and are meant to entertain, inform and enlighten, and intend to offend no one.

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