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Saturday, February 16, 2008

...By Any Other Name

I always knew I would use a pseudonym if I got published because I didn't think my real name sounded very romance writer-ish. Why sound like someone's grandmother or old maiden aunt if you have a choice in the matter? So, when I received my book contract, the decision had essentially already been made. I took the names of my daughter and son, Devon and Matthew. To this day, my son kids me about it and says I don't care as much about him because I put his name last. What's more, I added insult to injury by tacking an "S" onto the end of it.

Many of the elderly relatives didn't understand why I wouldn't use my own, perfectly good name. But just as many thought it was very cool. All in all, I think it's worked out pretty well. Not once have I goofed up while in author mode in the romance community and signed my real name to a message. Whenever someone calls me Devon, I always respond because the name is as familiar and dear to me as my own.

Within my local RWA chapter, I still go by my real name. Others in the group who have pseudonyms use them for all purposes, even when communicating on our private chapter loop. But not me, and that's what I've been thinking about lately. Maybe it's time. I know it must be confusing to new members who join our group. When I post messages, they don't make the connection between me and the person on the published author page. Why should they, unless I tell them?

Still, I'm resistant to crossing over totally and becoming the identity I've created. And I can't really put my finger on the reason why. I have no problem whatsoever with it out there in the cyber romance community. But the idea of asking people I've known for a lot of years to suddenly start calling me by an assumed name just feels silly somehow. I can't help wondering if anyone else felt this way.

I will tell you this. Taking a pseudonym put a degree of separation between me and my publishing experience. Here, and on my web site, and on the various forums out there in cyberspace, my real name is nowhere to be found. Yes, the photos are me and all the information is about me. But when I saw my book for the first time, it didn't have my name on it. I in no way expected this to have an impact, and I wasn't prepared for it. Until now, I've never even confessed it. Somehow, not having my real name on the cover of my book de-personalized it. It was almost as if I'd worked all those years for something and then ended up handing it over to someone else. I'm wondering if there are other authors out there who've experienced this feeling of separation by taking on an assumed name.



  1. You know, I still bounce back and forth with my choice to go with a pen name, but I decided on mine the same way you did. I didn't think my real name sounded nearly as romance authorly. I wasn't sure it would look good on a book.

    I didn't give up all of my name...I've kept my middle in my pen and I'm still learning to almost accept myself as one person with two names. Of course, I don't have any books published yet, but sometimes I think...am I sure I've picked the right name and can I live with it if I get published under a name I wasn't given at birth?

    But then...I don't have the same last name I was given at birth either. When I got married, for a while it made me feel like a different person, with a different identity and personality, from who I was before. I knew that wasn't the case, but it took a while to get used to it.

    I know that most writers real names are listed under the copyright inside the book though. Not always, but most the time. I knew yours before you ever told me because I checked the copywrite when I got your book. (A strange fixation of mine...I like to know because it makes me feel like I belong to a secret society...silly right?)

    Now though, with my pen it sometimes feel like second nature, but like you, I'm not sure how my pen would make me feel once I actually see it on a book cover or spine. It took me a long time to settle on a pen and I still find myself surprised by being called Taryn Raye. I've had a lot of people compliment me on how beautiful it is and most writers I know do know what my real name is, but they still call me by my pseudonym.

    I guess for me, though it still seems "odd" to go by two names sometimes, I still take comfort in knowing that Taryn is also part of me. She is me and I am her.

  2. Taryn, thank you so much for your thoughtful post. It is kinda strange that most of us who use pseudos have our real names on the copyright page. So much for anonymity, right. LOL!

    I love my pen name. It's dear to my heart because it's both of my children. And honestly, it feels natural when I'm posting different places, or emailing under my author personna. But it's just the strangest thing. When I pick up my book and look at it, it's like there's something missing.

    I'll get over it, I guess. I'm certainly not going back to my real name. And like you said, even those aren't our real names. I'd have to go back pretty far (through two marriages) to get back to my actual birth name, which was Jones. How generic is that! :o)

    Here's something to think about, too. Some publishers ASK you to change your name. It happened to a multi-published author in our chapter. I won't say who because she should have her privacy. When she got her first contract, her publisher asked her to pick a new name. And that name is now how she's known in the romance community and to her readers.

    I think your pen name is terrific! Very pretty. But I also thought your real name was nice, too. In my opinion, you've got a winner either way you go.

    So, what do you think? Is it time I broke over and started being "Devon" like the rest of the authors in our group who use pseudos? Probably, past time. But I will feel kinda silly making the transition. Some of those people have known me for 12 years.

    As always, thanks for stopping by, sweetie. And thanks for the feedback. :o)


  3. That's truly up to you, but of course, either way, I'll know it's you. Hehe!

    I still sometimes catch myself feeling silly when I type my pen, even in our group. I shake my head and smile, thinking how odd it feels to be "incognito." LOL


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