AmyBeth Inverness is not my real name. I don’t even know if Inverness is a surname at all; it’s a city in Scotland. I’ve never been there. I’ve had the nickname Nessie since I was a little girl who collected Loch Ness Monsters (I still do!) But it is not an uncommon moniker, so I have not been able to use Nessie on its own as either e-mail or other user-name. (Other people got to it first.) Shortly after moving to Vermont, I began to use VT Nessie (Vermont Nessie) and then later I started to use US Nessie. I’m known by these names in many circles.
When I began this blog, I decided to choose a pseudonym to use for my Science Fiction /Romance writing. Although I understand that some writers choose pseudonyms to keep their real identities secret and private, that was not my reasoning. My real surname is Fredricksen. It’s my married name, and it’s not secret. I chose to use a pseudonym because I wanted to create a brand that was readily identifiable as Writer of Science Fiction Romance. I’m forty years old, and I have a lot of connections out in the world. I started collecting Loch Ness Monsters when I was a little girl because I was a Scottish Highland Dancer. I also teach Highland Dance, and I have a lot of connections in that world.
I don’t want a ten-year-old dancer to google my name and find adult-only material. Also, I have a set of Highland Dance stories for Middle Grade that I’d still like to see published someday, though they are on the shelf for now. When and if that happens, I will probably choose another pseudonym to attach to those. It would make sense to use my maiden name, Lillie, since that name is more recognized in the Highland Dance world due to my mother’s involvement as a teacher.
Even my first name, AmyBeth, feels like a pseudonym sometimes even though it is my legal name. My maiden name was Amy Elizabeth Lillie; I was named after two of my mother’s favorite characters in Little Women. But Amy is a very common name, and there were always two or three of us in every class. I became known as AmyBeth during my school years, and when I got married, I made it legal.
Among the writers I’ve interviewed, quite a few of them use pseudonyms. Tiffany Reisz proudly writes erotica under her own name, to the shock of many who say she really should use a pen name since she writes smut. Some writers are open about their pseudonyms and why they chose them. Others write under several pen names, and I have no idea what their legal name is. Even John Quinlan, the model whose interview is going up this Friday, used a stage name when he was a pro wrestler.
There are many very good reasons to use a pseudonym. It’s a personal choice. But problems arise when there are rules that confuse the matter. I’ve heard of authors who were unable to be paid because the check was made out to their pseudonym instead of their real name. Social media sites have rules against using a false name, and that subject is a whole blog post in itself. Authors using a pseudonym might be called cowards, or dishonest.
Likewise, not using a pseudonym can be a problem. Recently, I read a post by a blogger (who shall remain nameless) who needed to use a pseudonym for the blog, twitter, and other social media because her dayjob included a rule about not expressing political opinions in public. Others have a legitimate fear of persecution if they write about controversial subjects such as homosexuality, or explicit erotica. Some writers use a pseudonym out of consideration for their family, who may not wish to be connected with the subject the author writes.
I occasionally hear or read criticism of writers both for using, or for not using a pseudonym. The only time I agree with an argument is when a person hides behind a false name in order to anonymously hurt someone else. Otherwise, I love to hear about why an author chose a particular name, and I respect a writer who wishes to only communicate using their chosen name instead of their legal name. So far, I’ve been fortunate that everyone I communicate with seems to respect and accept my choice.
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