Who Am I This Time?: Managing Pseudonyms

Chastity 3I’m always a bit surprised when someone says of one of my noms de plume, “I forgot that was you!” Admittedly, I do have conversations with myselves that encourage the impression of distinct (and usually argumentive) selves on social media, but that’s just to amuse me. But people still ask me why I have these names (and have recently added one more), so a little explanation from time to time helps. The reasons include:

BRANDING

The biggest hurdle I have faced is re-growing my readership with each new novel, mostly because I have a tendency to write a completely ‘different’ novel each time. Surely ‘originality’ (a vexed term at best, one I don’t believe in) is good? No, it’s not. People want to get to know you and they expect you to be sort of the recognisable each time they meet you; if you behave  like a totally different person every time they meet you, it’s unsettling. Sticking to one genre is the best way not to unsettle readers. Since I seem constitutionally incapable of sticking to one genre, I use the pseuds to identify the most common genres I write within (and stopped giving them titles that people cannot pronounce or spell).

SPEED

I write ‘too fast‘ and that’s an issue. Our culture has all kinds of perverse notions: you shouldn’t be paid for ‘art’ even if it’s your job. But great art should be a struggle; anything that comes too easily, can’t be any good. I sometimes fib about how long something took to write, because I know people want to believe it has to be a long and arduous struggle or it can’t be any good (and then they would have to try, too). Of course there’s generally a lot of work before that sudden rush of inspiration.

Here’s the team:

NoirNation3-695x1024

Graham Wynd who writes mimetic noirish crime and has his own Facebook page, too. Currently he’s appearing in Noir Nation 3 with the story “Kiss Like a Fist” — a bit of Galway noir. His story “Headless in Bury” has a slight tinge of the supernatural, but is mostly Chandler-esque PI style played a bit for mordant laughs (note to self: use of words like mordant also turns people off). That tale will appear in the forthcoming Fox Spirit anthology Missing Monarchs. His novella Extricate, a story of love and betrayal, will be coming out also from Fox Spirit at the beginning of 2014.

The Mangrove Legacy by Kit Marlowe - 500Kit Marlowe writes comic historicals, usually with a touch of romance. She’s also got her own Facebook page where the weekly serial appears as well as at Textnovel, Wattpad and usually at the Tuesday Serial, too. Kit is for light-hearted fun like the comic gothic novel The Mangrove Legacy which Tirgearr recently reprinted. The Constance & Collier stories will also be coming from Tirgearr, first reprinting The Big Splash and then going on to more adventures from the crazy flapper and her unflappable gentlelady’s lady. Also on the horizon, a medieval novel!

swanprinceThen there’s our naughty lady, C. Margery Kempe: she has the sexy tales. Friend her on Facebook if you’re not too prudish. Her stories embrace joyous sexuality but also narratives that will keep you spellbound. She has two ongoing series at Tirgearr: fairy tales of transformation like The Swan Prince and the Man City ménage series, the next one due in November, Man City: Martin (all men!). I realise she may be a bit racy for most folks: the Chastity Flame series began as hers, but now it’s become more thriller and less lust (i.e. safe for a wider audience).

And me? I’ll continue doing whatever mad thing comes to my mind because I just can’t seem to help it. That includes more fairy tales thanks to Fox Spirit, more non-fiction of varying stripes, the supernatural noir novel White Rabbit next year and a whole lot more. And if my alter egos have more success than me, I won’t worry — they’re all me after all.

I think.

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11 thoughts on “Who Am I This Time?: Managing Pseudonyms

  1. In re: ‘speed writing’/’writing too fast’ and the perceived quality (whatever that is) of the result: It is possible to expend as much time and energy to make a ‘poor’ artwork as it is a ‘rich’ one. Indeed, the T & E need not be proportionate to the final piece, because it might be the frivolous knock-off, turned out for fun, could imbue much more depth and intelligence than a portentous ‘serious’ magnum opus. One person’s seriousness is another’s silliness.

    • This is true. I remember Macca talking about the panic in writing “Yesterday” — surely it couldn’t be that easy, it must be someone else’s tune, etc.

  2. “Sticking to one genre is the best way not to unsettle readers”

    I loved this comment. In a previous incarnation I wrote a little of everything and regularly unsettled my readers to the point where I suspect some of them wanted to bury an axe in my head. Like you, I’ve decided to group different genres under different pen names… and am currently forgetting who I’m supposed to be, when, and where. It’s all good fun…

    • That’s the main thing: fun! Not that I’d sneeze at the chance to make beaucoup bucks, but that seems outside my destined obscurity.

      But fun! I have lots of fun.

  3. It’s remarkable to think how this has shifted since the pulp era, where writers would use the same or different names with abandon…but probably most of the brand ID for the more limited sort of reader was with the magazine, or how the magazine looked so that, say, DIME DETECTIVE could easily be confused with BLACK MASK, so that the appearance of any number of writers in any number of sorts of magazine wasn’t too much of a jar. I’m still looking forward to reading Robert Bloch and Clifford Simak’s western stories. Some book publishers will still have this sort of brand loyalty, not least in romance lines I suspect, but nonetheless…

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