You all probably knew this already, but I hadn't realized that Joyce Carol Oates had written some books, including mysteries, under a pseudonym. (I'm reading THE TATTOOED GIRL right now.)

Here's an essay she wrote about various authors' decisions to write under a pseudonym:

An article in the New York Times in which she states that she regrets having written under a pseudonym (I don't know if she feels differently right now. UPDATE: I guess she did change her mind because she kept writing books under Rosamond Smith.):

And just for good measure, a youtube clip of talking about developing characters and advice to emerging writers (I was heartened by her saying the first six weeks of writing a novel was "hell"):

I really never considered writing under a different name, no matter what genre I experimented in. But I can see how authors might want to embrace another identity, especially if a book is in completely different style. How about you?

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I can't imagine writing under a pseudonym. I figure anything that comes out of my head and off of my fingers, I'm willing to take responsibility for. That said, I did once write for several bi-lingua (English - Chinese) magazines and I needed a Chinese name. The transliteration of my name didn't sound good to the translator in the office, so she dubbed me Shek Wai Lam (in Cantonese), meaning Great Stone in the Forest. When you translated that back into English it became William Stone, rather than Eric. But I did write several articles under the name William Shek.
But Eric, your name SOUNDS like a really good pseudonym. You have a perfect writing name. I can think of lots of funny things to do with Great Stone of the Forest - Great Stoner, etc. A very weighty name...I think pseudonyms are not always to hide your identity, I think it gives some people an opportunity to alter a part of their name they don't like. My last name is Kam, which is Danish and is supposed to be written with two M's at the end. It has caused a lot of strange looks when I show up all blonde (has often been an advantage when I was in sales, as it got me in the door at Asian companies) and not Chinese at all. I don't mind, but I am putting on that second M again just because I think it looks better. Fiction writers look at all their writing, including their own name and can't help wanting to 'edit'. For famous writers there are many reasons that can make sense, but I can't think of why I would want to do it beyond repatriating that lost M.
I do often get asked if my name is a pseudonym. It isn't. But then, sometimes I get asked how to spell Stone. One of the times I told someone, "you know, like a rock." They asked me what Iraq had to do with it. I'm fairly certain that I speak reasonably clearly, no speech impediment that I'm aware of.

I knew a John Kamm in Hong Kong. If I recall correctly, he had something to do with the American Chamber of Commerce. I rather like the double M.
Too funny about Iraq. If I add the M, then my name goes back a few hundred years in Denmark and I get to reclaim a few nutty ancestors like the one in the 1700's that thought the housekeeper was giving his girl the evil eye so he assaulted her and ended up being 'drawn' (luckily not quartered). With one M I end up with a relative that sided with the Nazis and is up on war crime charges (a rarity in Denmark). Hmmm, maybe I do need a pseudonym.
Double M sounds good. A drawn relative makes for an amusing tale. I'm envious. Unfortunately, as far as I can get out of my family, they seem to have sprung magically into being on Ellis Island sometime around 1908, having got there mostly from Russia where no one claims to know nothin'.
William Shek--I like it!
What a very good topic, Naomi. I, like you, cannot imagine writing under a pseudonym, but clearly my choice to use initials only -- in a vain attempt to disguise my gender -- may have something in it that resembles the cases of other female writers cited by Ms. Oates. I knew I wanted men to read my books also, and I had formed an idea that female authors were thought to write only cozies. From a marketing standpoint that wasn't smart. Women consume far more books than men.

My thought is that authors change to a pseudonym either because their previous books have not sold well and publishers do hold that against any future books -- or because sometimes the literary author wants to cut into the mass market by writing mysteries but is secretly ashamed of them and doesn't want his own good name associated with them. I really don't see any other good reason for it and don't buy this reinventing oneself. Banville did not reinvent himself with his mystery. It's standard Banville. I cannot speak for Oates. I'm not terribly familiar with her work.

Lastly, I suppose, if the only way I could get another book published was under a pseudonym, I would -- but not by choice.
I can actually see the point of using a pseudonym if an author is exploring two very disparate genres, especially if one readership would be turned off by the other set of books.
Well, yes. It's ultimately getting the sales. Actually, I've found you can't get away with anything anyway. Librarians will sniff out any subterfuge and post it on the web.
LOL. And here I was convinced that they were gifted with a superior sense of getting to the bottom of mysteries.

This doesn't necessarily explain though why our local library shelves Arnaldur Indridasson's books under "A" -- and that even after I pointed out the problem to them a few months ago, along with the book's blurb, which made it abundantly clear that the last name was Indridasson.
LET ME SAY EMPHATICALLY THAT DO NOT HATE PUBLIC LIBRARIES. I used to depend on them and love them, but I hope one may use and love a thing without being blinded to its shortcomings. Same as with people. Why would you assume I hate the library because I took a book to the Reference desk, stood in line, and waited my turn to explain that they might want to reshelve an author's books? Yes, I'm mildly irritated that they decided not to do so, but that doesn't mean I hate libraries.
And why do I seem to have made an enemy here? I think it must be because I once expressed concern that libraries cut severely into book sales. That is a fact over which I have no control, and I certainly don't want to change a system which benefits many people.
Hasn't hurt Nora Roberts any. And in fact may have increased her fans by double. Stephen King also has a couple.

In fact more authors than not have at least two.

I actually have one. That I enjoy writing under, because it frees my imagination and I can pretend


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