Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Guest Post: Jeanne on "AKA--Also Known As"

I am often not aware that a author may write another series under another name. Jeanne of the Bookblog of the Bristol Public Library is back today with some examples of authors doing so and why they or their publisher prefers they do so.

AKA--Also Known As

Some authors write under multiple names, which has caused more than one patron to wonder aloud—and to a reference librarian—why that should be.

Here are my standard answers and examples:

·       Authors who write in different genres like to use different names so that their readers sort of know what to expect.  For example, Agatha Christie wrote mysteries under her own name, but wrote more romantic fare under Mary Westmacott.  Eleanor Hibbert used a number of pseudonyms, but is best known for her Jean Plaidy (fictional treatments of British royalty), Victoria Holt (gothic suspense type books), and Phillippa Carr (family sagas).  M.C. Beaton uses that name for her Agatha Raisin and Hamish McBeth mysteries but writes romances under her real maiden name of Marion Chesney.

·       Others may write in same genre but use different names to distinguish different series.  Darlene Ryan writes the Magical Cats series under Sofie Kelly, but the similar Second Chance Cat books under Sofie Ryan.  Mike Lawson uses his own name to write the Joe DeMarco, but makes a minor adjustment to M.A. Lawson for the Kay Hamilton books.

·       A multi-writer pseudonym can be used to recognize both parties (Judith Michael, the husband and wife writing team of Judith Barnard and Michael Fain) or serve as a sort of house name under which several authors can do work for hire (Carolyn Keene, Franklin Dixon, Alfred Hitchcock, Ellery Queen—the last of which began as the penname for two cousins, but which later used work from a number of different authors, including Jack Vance and Richard Deming).

·       Sometimes a well-known writer wants to have his or her work judged on its merit alone and not benefit (or be disparaged) because of the author’s status. The most prominent recent example would be J.K. Rowling, who chose to write her adult mystery series under the name Robert Galbraith. 

·       In times past, some publishers believed that a big name author should only have out one book a year.  (Pause now while we all laugh.) Stephen King decided to get around the restriction by writing under the name Richard Bachman.

·       Some publishers want to avoid the possibility of bias by having an author write under a gender neutral name or under the name of someone of the opposite sex.  The aforementioned J.K. Rowling encountered that, which is why Harry Potter wasn’t authored by Joanne Rowling.  I’ve noticed that S.J. Bolton, having made a name for herself as a best-selling thriller author, is now Sharon Bolton.

·       Reinventing one’s self.  Many people go through a phase (or many!) in which they’d like to be someone else, someone with a more glamourous name or a more exotic one or (if your name is already exotic) a comfortable name.  The aforementioned Sharon Bolton is one who disliked her first name for a long time and who wrote an essay about it for the NewStatesman. (link:

·       Anonymity. Some writers don’t enjoy the spotlight or don’t want to have people analyze their work in terms of their personal lives.  Some believe the work should stand on its own, apart from its author.  This is apparently what Italian author Elana Ferrante believes, and why she hasn’t revealed her true identity. (A reporter claims to have uncovered her real name, prompting cries of protest from some authors and fans who believe her wishes should be respected.)

·       Last but not least, there’s the person who writes under the name of a more famous person.  Recently seems to be more credit being given to the “ghosts” with lines such like “as told told” or just “with” while the Famous Person is listed as primary author.  For example, two mystery novels were released as being authored by actor George Sanders but there is evidence that they were actually written by Craig Rice and Leigh Brackett. A long running ghost author is Andrew Neiderman, who has written as V.C. Andrews for decades, following the author’s death in 1986. There are several others I harbor deep suspicions about. . . . 

I’m sure there are some other reasons I’ve missed.  Authors, would you like to weigh in?

1 comment:

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