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What’s In A (Pen) Name?

I’ve been thinking a lot about names lately. For one thing, I recently got engaged, and my fiance isn’t super keen on the idea of me keeping my maiden name. As Kelly Hitchcock, I’ve published one novel (and hopefully one more), a few short stories, and several poems. Still, he maintains that he wants me to take his last name, which is four syllables… not exactly hyphen-friendly. And anyone who has read my work knows I am a big fan of the hyphen; almost as much as I would be a semicolon superfan if it didn’t make me look like a pretentious a-hole.

It also came up in my writer’s group the other day – when is it appropriate to use a pen name? I imagine that if your given name at birth is Brad Pitt or James Cameron and you plan on making a serious living as an author, you might want to use a pen name to distance yourself from the celebrity namesakes (then again, you might want to invite the connection). Then there’s the case of writers who cross over into writing in another genre – like erotica – and use a pen name to maintain the separation between the two genre’s writings.¬† Or maybe your name just sucks, like Dentenia Zickafoose.

What I wonder is:

  • It’s common practice for doctors and lawyers to keep their maiden names based on public professional accomplishments. Income disparity notwithstanding, does the same expectation exist for authors?
  • Is it icky to take on a pen name for no apparent reason? No evidence of genre-switching, crappy namesake, or celebrity doppelhood?

What do you think?

Published inMention Mondaywriting

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