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When do you need a pseudonym?

Robinne Weiss

Supreme Litopian
#1
My novels are middle-grade age. My short stories are for adults, though most have been not inappropriate for teens. My two most recently completed short stories are rather inappropriate for teens, and my husband suggested I may want to publish them under a different name. I'm resistant to that--it seems to open up a whole new level of work. Do I then maintain two web presences? Eventually, you know people will work out the connection between the two names, and then the work to keep them separate will have been wasted. Yet, he's right--it would be horrible for some 12 year-old to pick up a copy of one of these rather more racy short stories, thinking she's going to find a fun story with kids and dragons, and get a shock. Do I use a different name for the adult stuff, and not worry about keeping my identities separate, but use the pseudonym merely as an indication the stories are adult in nature? Do I not worry about it at all, since the short stories will be published in magazines for adults, and kids are unlikely to see them? If I write racy stories, does that harm my MG fans' (or their parents') perception of me?

Anyway, I'm curious if any of you have addressed the issue of writing both for kids and adults, and how you've separated the two, so readers aren't disappointed or scandalised by your writing.
 

Paul Whybrow

Supreme Litopian
#2
When I returned to creative writing in 2013, I chose to use a pen name, conflating Augustus Devilheart from a long dead great-uncle and a symbol found on my Wyber ancestors' family crest. I did so, for several reasons, mainly because I thought my own name to be unmemorable and also because there were two other Whybrows (neither of them related to me) who are authors—Ian writes children's books and Marion penned books on art.

I also cherish my privacy, but, as we writers soon discover, an author is part of the product nowadays and is expected to perform! Another reason for dropping the nom de plume was recalling how using false identities had compromised the finances of an elderly friend of my family. He'd written in his spare time, while working a 'proper' job to pay the bills, using various pen names and getting published, though never earning very much. Then, television came along, and, unexpectedly, one of his books about the adventures of school children was adapted into a series for broadcasting. Suddenly, he was in the money and interviewed by newspapers, which brought him to the attention of the tax man, who began to investigate all of his other writing identities—digging into his life and spoiling his enjoyment at finally being recognised as a writer; he eventually received a hefty tax bill. I didn't want to be led into temptation, so reverted to plain old Paul Whybrow. Being a writer is schizoid enough, without having some other fellow dogging my tracks! o_O

Worryingly, I discovered that it was impossible to amend the author's name on Goodreads, so the titles written by Augustus Devilheart will exist in perpetuity. This sort of controlling behaviour makes Amazon (who own Goodreads) look like an intelligence agency.

Many, many writers have used pen names, some to conceal their salacious scribblings. Famed crime writers Lawrence Block and Donald E. Westlake both wrote titillating soft-core novels under pen names, including female, and with naughty covers. In old age, Lawrence Block has embraced his former output, happily republishing much of it.

Times change, and people grow up, including young readers. Instead of worrying about shocking and offending your current loyal readers, you could see your racy stories as a way of opening their minds to adult issues, with you holding their hands, rather than shoving them headlong into a steamy pit of iniquity!
 

Amber

Venerated Member
Benefactor
#3
I'd create a pseudonym for each different type of writing. But that's only me.

To me the purpose of a pseudonym is to create space between who you are and the who people who read what you've written imagine you to be. Which yes, makes sense to me. People who read fiction like to imagine the writer is a character when the writer might not actually be a character at all. Although, I suppose we're all also the people who read fiction and so if we know better so should everyone else. But often, they don't.
 

OperaDivaAlix

Respected Member
Benefactor
#4
I heard J.K.Rowling changed her pen name and used initials apart from her surname. Regarding the Harry Potter series because teenage boys wouldnt buy it. Correct me if I’m wrong? If so, good selling tactic she sold millions, a film studio then brought the Harry Potter rights and most of all it was rejected numerous times beforehand :)
 

Howard

Venerated Member
#5
I heard J.K.Rowling changed her pen name and used initials apart from her surname. Regarding the Harry Potter series because teenage boys wouldnt buy it. Correct me if I’m wrong? If so, good selling tactic she sold millions, a film studio then brought the Harry Potter rights and most of all it was rejected numerous times beforehand :)
Yeah, its well documented that she wanted to hide the fact she was female. And the 'K' in her name is invented. So its nearly a pen name - ish.