Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Name Hopping

I really can’t imagine writing “regular” stories. Since my young reader days with Mio My Son, I’ve had my mind fixed on fantasy. I love suspending disbelief and offering alternate universes, prophetic dreams, and mythical creatures. You know; magic, supernatural stuff.

And, while I consider that my personal reality, I can’t help but ogle those writers who switch from one author persona to the next writing this genre and that one. Living like that in the real world would probably get them labeled as having multiple personality disorder. But in fiction we just call it using pseudonyms.

I confess that I’m toying with a name change of my own. Not so much for change of genre, but for differing content. I write under my real name and can’t help but feel occasional twinges of guilt at the thought of my kids reading those romantic scenes (even when they’re of age) or worse, their teachers or schoolmates’ parents snickering or shaking their heads at me during PTA meetings.

Comedian Eddie Murphy said some years ago that he began to make different kinds of movies once his kids were older. He wanted them to be able to enjoy his performances. So, he’s evolved from Raw to Shrek’s donkey, still acting, still funny, but changed. Yet, he managed this transition under his same name.

Can we do this as authors? Or does LA Banks really have to write vampires under that name and romance as Leslie Esdaile so that readers don’t get confused? For me, I’m liking the beginnings of my new WIP as a new persona. The writing is darker and will be sexier, too. Yet, the people on my job will have no clue that the woman in the next cubicle is churning out this stuff when she leaves the office every day. I find it freeing.

To my fellow authors: Have you tried this? You know, writing sweet romance as Suzy Strawberry and horror as Anthony Mayhem? Is it a tough switch or more like a seventh-inning stretch for the mind? Do you think it dilutes your audience or broadens your reach? And, as readers, do you care if your favorite author is a genre switcher who throws you a mystery today and a thriller tomorrow? Does it work for some writers but not for others?

My nosy little pseudonym wants to know.



Charles Gramlich said...

I have used a pseudonym for a couple of stories. Otherwise I prefer to write everything under my own name, no matter the genre.

Farrah Rochon said...

I've considered a pseudonym in addition to the one I already use. :) Looking forward to those darker, sexier books.

Jewel Amethyst said...

I write using my first two given names only (so my middle name is my surname). I find it quite liberating because most of my co-workers who know me by my last name have no idea that I write fiction.

Carol Mitchell said...

For me, the answer is "it depends". I actually considered a similar post sometime ago using a parallel in the world of acting. Some actors are typecast and when they try to switch from bad guy to good guy it just does not work. Eddie Murphy is comedic in all of his movies and so he can pull it off. I think it's the same for authors. If you switch to a genre with similarities that's one thing, but from vampire movies to a sweet romantic novel might be a hard sell. Readers may keep looking out for the scene when the main character starts sinking his teeth into his girlfriends neck!

Liane Spicer said...

A writer's name is her brand. If your brand is romance and a reader picks up your book and finds a slasher mystery she has good reason to be upset.

Since I write in several genres I started off with a pseudonym. (wink wink, Farrah!) It is indeed freeing, not just from the POV of genre branding, but because I do love my privacy. Looking forward to your alter egos, Stefanie!

KeVin K. said...

My friend and mentor Kristine Kathryn Rusch publishes under various names.
As Kris Nelscot she writes the Smokey Dalton mystery series. She's Sandy Schofield when writing media tie-in (Star Trek, Quantum Leap, Predator). As Kristine Grayson she writes fantasy romances. She writes fantasy and science fiction -- and I think one mainstream novel -- under her own name. She and her husband also have a set of names they use for various series, media tie-in, or other novels.
Kris does this purely for marketing. People would be less likely to take a gritty historical murder mystery seriously coming from a Trek writer, for example.

As some of you know, I pulled my name off a project when I disagreed with the editor's decisions, which I don't think is what you meant. I do intend to use my wife's name for my romance novels, but other than that, I intend to get as many books published with my name on the spine as I possibly can.