March 14, 2010

Guest Blogger: Paige Ryter on 'Pen names...why have one?'

Being 'famous' isn't all it's cracked up to be. Think about it. If you're a celebrity, where would you buy underwear without someone telling a tabloid about it? For example, my children just told me a Packers football player is student teaching in their school, so he can finish his teaching degree. He's a well-known player (we live in the Green Bay area of Wisconsin) and I asked my kids to get me an autograph. Nope…the man wants to remain anonymous so he can just get his degree for when he quits playing football.

As writers, many of us want to be known, to experience the thrill of being seen in stores and getting the attention of their readers. Not me. I have some extended family members who wouldn't treat me very well if they found out who I was. They'd consider me 'rich' and try to take my cash (that's almost funny when you look at what the average writer makes). So, when I began writing seriously, I knew I had to hide behind a persona—three, actually, for the different genres I write.

I have one pen name for writing Christian inspirationals and have been told to never disclose that name with any of my other names. Inspirational readers want their authors to be pure, never writing about anything immoral. Granted, I don't write immoral things (we have three teenagers in the house and they certainly don't need any ideas put in their heads), but some of the things I've written under other pen names are more laid-back. So my inspirational pen name (which shall remain nameless, but some people have figured it out) has become the 'moral' side of my personality, never writing anything close to being off-color, and never writing anything that's non-Christian. It's the way I want my children to live, and don't have to worry about them reading those titles.

Another pen name (Andie Alexander) is for my mysteries and adventures, all written in first person. That pen name is my laid-back name, the one who likes to travel and have fun in life. The stories for that name are fun, even though a murder, danger, or adventure is involved. Some of those stories are about people with weird jobs (like a celebrant—a eulogist) and strange things happening in life.

And the third name is Paige Ryter, a play on words (page writer). This pen name is for my contemporary romances, mostly sweet or very slightly sensual. In Paige's world, the hero and heroine are from different worlds, forced together by some twist of fate. I love romance and wish all men would read romances to take notes on how to treat women. I've tried to get my husband to read a romance of mine, but he's usually laughing hysterically after the first paragraph, saying it would never happen in real life. But think about it…if men would study how women love to be treated, wouldn't life be happier? Thus, Paige is the dreamer part of my personality.

So, not only secret agents want to remain anonymous in this world, but writers do as well. There are some parts of this country who make you register pen names, which defeats the purpose. But I've also known different authors who have been harassed because of their writing, wondering if they've written their sex scenes because they have no life or sleep around, or trying to scam an author out of money, just because their names are in the public eye. Not me. I'd rather become an anonymous multiple personality, with each of my names representing part of who I am. That way, I can go to the grocery store without a care and roll my eyes at my teenagers without worrying that someone, somewhere, will sell the thought to the tabloids if I become famous. And that's also why you'll never see my picture with any of my pen names…I can't be more than one person at once.

Do you have a pen name, or would you like to become someone else?

Paige (, also


Virginia said...

I can understand why authors have pen names, I would be the same way! The only problem I have with it is when they have several its just so hard to keep up with them all! When I love an author I want to read all of their books and its hard when they have several names!


Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Paige. Thanks for dropping by today. I had two names at one time, but have pretty much dropped one of them. Now, I just have the one, but since I'm on some of my loops under my real name, people know who I am, as does my family. Maybe when I'm done being so involvoed in RWA chaptes (okay, some of you can stop the laughing now), I'll just be Anna Kathryn Lanier.

So, here's how I came up with my pen name: I have two daughters (both grown). One's middle name is Anne, the other's is Kathryn. I thought Anna Kathryn sounded better, so made that one change. AKL was my original pen name for my historicals and the Lanier is from my past, it was my great-grandmother's name and the last name of the hero in the first historical I wrote. So, that's how I came up with my name.

And why did I pick a pen name? Well, I joke that it's because I may not be a Porter for the rest of my life (but after 23 years of marriage, well....I figure I'm pretty much stuck with it) and 2nd, I'm a substitute teacher, so always good to keep those separate.

Paige Ryter said...

Very cool on the names, Anna!!! Names are tough to come up with, because it becomes your 'personality.'

And I completely understand why you want to read all the books from that author, Virginia. I have a friend who writes inspirationals and contemps...and the readers wrote to her complaining because the married couple in the contemp actually consumated the marriage (behind closed doors). So to me, that was a sign to keep all names separate. But I understand!

Thanks for your comments!!!

Sally_Odgers said...

I have more than a dozen pen names. Some I have chosen to use deliberately, but several were not my idea. I started life as Sally Farrell. I was a writing teenager. I married at 21 and became, briefly, Sally Farrell Odgers. This led to problems because readers had no idea which bit was my surname. I later became Sally Odgers, which is the name I use most often. It is my real married name. I used Tegan James (my children's names) when I was writing for a publisher whose editor didn't like my real name. She said it was not a "selling name". The fact that I had sold 50+ books using it was immaterial. It apparently didn't suit the genre I was writing at this point. I wrote some books that were unsuitable for children, and chose to use a completely different name for these, so as not to confuse or upset librarians and child readers. Then came a stint as a writer of educational "bonsai" novels. I used a dozen or more different names for these, because the publisher wanted me to. Thus Edward EB Cracker, Joseph Corella, Patrick Farrell, Nicholas Flynn, Anna Mario, Theo Georgiou and many more were born. More recently, I decided to try to launch a new series under a new persona, as if I was a new writer. The reason was that I've been around so long, I'm no longer "news". The reps blew my cover, so I'll never know if it would have worked. I also co-write sometimes with my husband. We are known collectively as "Darrel and Sally Odgers".

As for my friends or relatives knowing I write... I assume most of them do know, and I know most of them never give it a second thought... unless they happen to buy one of my books or borrow it from the library. Then they are probably mildly amused to think of their vague, messy acquaintance/relative having books for sale in Canada, the UK, the US, NZ and Australia! Certainly no one assumes I'm rich. No rich person ever looked like me.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Paige, very interesting post. I wish I had not told people I was writing a book until I had sold it. The public has no idea how long the process is, due partly to those books that come out three weeks after a major crime or trial as in the case of (Yuk) O. J. Simpson. I like using pen names, too, and a separate one for each genre or subgenre makes sense, ala Jayne Ann Krentz/Amqnda Quick/ Jane Castle.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jaye Garland here. I made the decision to use a pen name many years ago. My real name is way too long to fit on the cover of a book, it's too hard to spell, and no one ever pronouces it correctly. In fact, people will spell my name any way but right...and have even tried to "correct it for me" on documents. Aarrgh!

Anna knows me from our RWA chapter but I prefer not to connect the dots, so to speak, here on this blog as that would defeat the purpose of having the pen name. Since this blog, I'm now rethinking the photo concept but I'm not in hiding so will probably keep it on my Facebook account. I will say that my pen name is not completely made up.

'Jaye' is the spelled out first letter of my real first name and 'Garland' is a two part concept where both parts honor my very supportive husband and my pioneering grandparents. I like how 'Jaye Garland' goes together, I like how it sounds, and I like how the name looks in print. I used to be known as "Jaye in Saudi" as I was very active on the RWA loops when we lived overseas. {{{me waving...Hi Carolyn!}}} Since moving home and going back to a full-time job, I no longer have much time for writing let alone blogging. This topic pulled me out of now it's back to the dungeon and the edits. Thanks for a great discussion!
Jaye in Houston!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Yes, I do have a pen name - and I have grown fond of being called by it. I am a gemini and my daughter says I now have a name for each of my personalities. I used my mother's maiden name and my favorite city in Scotland - Paisley Kirkpatrick is what I came up with. So far, everyone seems to like it. We live in a remote part of the Sierra Mountains and being a celebrity isn't going to make a difference up here because nobody cares...

Anonymous said...

I chose my pen name as a compilation of my real name and my grandma's name when I sold my first short story. My editor now saw it on all the paperwork for my sale and e-mails and liked it. So Cheryl Ann Smith it stays!

Paige Ryter said...

Thank you, everyone, for commenting! I think it's great how pen names are chosen...and wish everyone well with tons of sales!

Mary Ricksen said...

I want everyone to know I did it!! I don't care if they like what I write about or not. Yippie I published a book!!

Hywela Lyn said...

I'm with you there, Mary. I sort of cheated. Hywela Lyn is a combination of both my first names. Whilst I have nothing about my surname (also Welsh) it's a bit ordinary and doesn't sound quite right for a romance author.
Gret post, Paige, and I love your pen name.