14 October 2012

Exposed Sunday: The Trouble With Pen-names - or...Who Am I, Anyway?

Hi, my name is C.E. Schwilk and I'll be your blogger for this...well, for this blog. Forever.

Seriously, though, how do you feel about pseudonyms? They all worked for O. Henry, Mark Twain, Stan Lee, Grace Monroe, Acton Bell - and there's just so many actors/performers who've hacked off bits, swapped names about, adopted family ones, or chucked out everything but a few letters, i.e., moi. (and a boat-load of other folks I'm sure we can all rattle off without much thought...)

Although I tried to get my Facebook to cooperate, I'm listed as Carlee E Schwilk, there - the "C.E." part of my name. This is also my pen name. The name I use in my non-writing life (the rest of my life) is my married name - completely different and removed from this and I like that. Lately, both my names are getting uncomfortably close for my liking, but I'm trying to not let that bother me too much. Does it matter? Not really. C.E. Schwilk is the one I've chosen to write under, at least for the science-fiction/fantasy work.

autograph currently in progress
I don't just write that one genre, however, and I don't plan to use the same name. This decision has been long-standing and reinforced by other authors who've had ranging success in their own name-change-no-name-change - the most current one being J.K. Rowling's attempt at an adult book.

So, was it a good idea to use the "J.K. Rowling brand" for something utterly different from the only other books she's known for? I don't think so, personally. I haven't read the book (yet), but the reviews are mixed. Many have given her a great thumbs up despite being associated with Harry Potter and some have panned her completely, because it wasn't as good as Harry Potter.

Never mind all the rants and raves on Goodreads. You get the point. She set out to do a completely different type of novel. She had a different story to tell and what does everyone do? Compare it to her other work. I wonder if she had used a different name - a variant spelling, at the very least - would they (the reviewers, public in general) have tried to let the story stand on its own merit?

Although everyone knows Stephen King's seventy-five different names (O! hyperbole, how I love thee!) and that hasn't hurt him, has it?

Related to this, Kristen Lamb had a great blog post: When Do Writers Need Multiple Blogs? The whole concept of having a complete and separate identity (with blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) for each does seem horribly daunting. You'd need an army of personal assistants to keep up with that and that's just a little too insane for my taste. However, if I am extremely fortunate enough to get multiple books published, I'm still a fan of the idea of changing the name to fit the genre.

Elizabeth S. Craig agrees with me, too. I also agree with advertising both names - give folks that option if they happen to like cozy mystery and hardcore cyber-punk (and you happen to write both), they can hunt all your books down! Win-win!

Lastly, I give you the Pen Name Generator (for humor-purposes only)! You're welcome.

Your turn! Do you go by a pen-name? Did you ever consider it? What are your thoughts about authors who do it - or go by multiple names, depending on the genre/whatever?


  1. Great post. Thanks for commenting on mine on the same subject. I'm a big fan of Kristen Lamb, so I'm in the one blog/one name camp. But I LOVE the pen name generator. It named me Lady Bonbons. Or I could use the formula of pet/street/fav author and be Chuck Henrietta Vonnegut. That wouldn't be easily forgotten. :-)

    1. Hello! Thanks for the visit & comment! LOL Lady Bonbons! Awesome! Goodness!!! Oooh Vonnegut! Niiiice.

      Yeah, I think I'm pretty much going with "one name" - but this is still a pseudonym, although I'm sure if I do get published and recognised, folks will learn my "everyday name" (which is nothing like this one).

      I like the subtle changes - like Iain Banks publishes mainstream fiction but when he's doing sci-fi it's "Iain M Banks". Subtle. If I do that chick lit thing, I'll just use "Carlee Schwilk"