Do you write under a pseudonym? Should you? And which would you choose? British indie author Denise Barnes shares the story behind her pen-name for her debut novel.
Pseudonym, Pen-name, Nom de Plume – call it what you will. Many authors use another name, sometimes multiple names, for various genres. I had written and had published a couple of memoirs and automatically used Denise Barnes, but romantic fiction seemed to require a name which was a little more flowing and…well, romantic.
I used to love writing adventure serials at primary school and my favourite heroine’s name was Fenella, so that bit was easy. Now for the surname. My debut novel, Annie’s Story, the first of The Voyagers Trilogy, is set in 1913 and continues throughout the First World War so I thought it would be nice to have some connection to the period; something that had meaning for me.
Many years ago my mother revealed a huge family secret to my sister and me that her father (our grandfather) was not her real father. I was delighted. For various reasons I had no love for him whatsoever. ‘Then who was our real grandfather?’ was my burning question. ‘My mother had an affair with a German prisoner of war,’ she answered, ‘and she fell with me.’
Of course I pounded her with more questions but she knew very little. My grandmother only told her that his name was ‘Forster’ but not even how to spell it. She did say he was the kindest man she ever knew, so that was a relief.
What a story! I’d love to know if there are any half cousins in Germany, and how mind-blowing if I could see a photograph of my grandfather. But my sister is very worried that if I start digging I’ll uncover something awful, as he may have had sons who were involved in the terrible atrocities of the Second World War. But I prefer to give him and his family the benefit of the doubt.
My mother has long since died but I truly believe she would have been pleased I’d taken her father’s name for my novels as she must have been curious about him. Mum’s younger sister, however, was really upset and accused me of honouring his name, but I’m not; I’m simply acknowledging him. After all, a grandfather is a very close relation. He may not even have known about my grandmother’s pregnancy. But I know he lived. And I’m very grateful because if it wasn’t for their love affair, my mother wouldn’t have been born, and neither would I!
The bonus is that it’s given me a brilliant idea for my next gritty but romantic novel. I can make it up to my heart’s content and finally meet my German ‘grandfather’ in the pages of my book, though I know I’ll have to brace myself for the reproach of my family.
The Impact of a Pen-name
I’d love to know the reasons why other authors choose their pen-names. And whether the new name has inspired them to write stories they might never have written. But my warning is to be mindful of the name you choose – it may have repercussions way beyond your fiction-writing imagination!
Thank goodness we writers have learnt to grow lovely thick skins!
OVER TO YOU If you have a pen-name, how did you choose yours? If you're sticking with your given name, would you ever write using a pseudonym? Join the conversation via the comments box!#Authors - what's in a (pen)name? Case study of how @denisebarnesuk chose hers here #ww #writerswednesday Click To Tweet