What kind of Writer Am I? Changing Names and Staking Claims

After a four month hiatus, I am back! It’s been a hectic few months with my final graduate residency, assignments for my practicum, and domestic duties, but I am determined to get back in the saddle with my blogging. I’ve missed you WordPress, did you miss me too? Wait, don’t answer that yet. Let me tell you all of the exciting things I have been doing in the absence of writing my blogs.

11 jam-packed days of Irish authors imparting a sense of wonder and fulfillment into the already exciting world of writing. What better way to inspire a troupe of starry-eyed amateurs on the road to master the craft. Dublin greeted us with tropical temperatures and new friends that made this residency especially memorable. While the details of the trip could fill two more blog posts, I will summarize as best I can. My family of writers in the residency gave me so much hope and encouragement that I was truly meant to be in this field. I am nowhere near professional or even expert status in the ways of publishing or even writing, but I can shout it from the highest point of Pittsburgh, PA that I am writer. Hear me roar, er, type?!

hesterOne of the effects of being in Dublin was a restored sense of confidence and at the same time apprehension of what kind of writer I will be now that I have proclaimed myself one. The question plagues me to this very second of what my audience, my readers, and the world will think of me and my writing. The only comparison that I can think of is a flashback to Hester Prynne from undergraduate American Literature class. She bore the weight of society’s judgement the first time she walked with Pearl out to the scaffold with a self-confidence that I never developed. Like Hester, I will eventually carry my manuscript baby to face the judgement of the world’s opinion.  (Yeah that metaphor just happened!)

Sure, I think some of my writing will be good someday, but what will people think? I would be a fool to tell myself that it doesn’t matter because in reality I am writing for my audience, not my family (who will tell me it is all great) or myself.  If my goal is to change how my readers view themselves or life, then I should care about the overall impression of me as an author.

I’ve spend most of my teenage-young adult life experimenting with the way I look to find my identity. Like some women I have dyed my hair to fit my personality Example below:

Matches my quirkiness, but does it really make me who I am?

Matches my quirkiness, but does it really make me who I am?

While I may be happy with my Nymphadora -esque hair, it doesn’t change the fact that my writing is still without an identity. I can move from genre to genre without too much trouble, but how do I make myself a truly unique writer?
To start, I have finally named my manuscript after a year and half of having my main characters name as the title. It is now Dollhouse Daughter. Yeah, yeah an alliteration, but I don’t care. People, more specifically my readers, will remember the title better and it fits me as a writer. I wish I could be one of those authors who doesn’t use cliches, pop culture references, and alliterations. Then who would I be? Not me, that’s for sure.

So, now that I have my first novel title chosen, I figured that my identity as an author would speak through my work. And then I googled myself. Everyone has done it at one time or another (whether you want to admit it or not is up to you) and although most of the results were the Amanda Young from the Saw Series, there was one author who popped up. She’s already fairly popular on Goodreads as an erotica, romance novelist. I shouldn’t have an issue sharing my name with an established author because I’m sure it has happened many many times before, but it is her content that may confuse my personal identity as a writer.  It is a perfectly acceptable genre to write in, and in any other circumstance I would have no issues sharing my authorial name with her. At the same time, my newly named novel is specifically young adult. How will my readers know the difference between an established author and my name when they are one in the same, especially if my books are geared toward a PG-13  audience and not rated R?

Tough choice, huh? I could risk keeping my name and relying on my writing to show who I am or pick a PEN NAME?!Plenty of authors do it every day. My author friend Melissa Drake changed her last name from Davis to Drake—awesome pseudonym, right? My name is not so easily changed. I’m  a fickle Gemini, and I can’t seem to settle on one thing. So, I wanted to share my process of coming up with one pseudonym that I think has potential. I feel like the main aspect of a pen name is the importance it holds in your life. For me, just changing my last name might not be enough. Maybe this is my chance to be someone else–to create a name to match the personality I want the world to see.

First I decided to scrap using my given name all together. Instead,  I could use my initials (which spell the name Amy) as  an easy way of choosing an alternate first name. Take something from my real life and just tweak it a bit to fit a different persona. Because choosing a new name in any sense is incredibly difficult. I could pick something I feel strongly about in the moment, but twenty years from now I may regret the decision.  So the task is to choose something that will last me for my career and sound realistic enough to be an actual name. I’ve spent hours pouring over Celtic mythology names to get an idea for a last name and for a while I thought that coming up with a last name was impossible. It’s difficult enough to choose from ordinary surnames, but trying to find one in ancient mythology that doesn’t make me sound like a character made for Skyrim is nearly impossible. Mythology may be one of my favorite topics to read about; it is nowhere near suitable enough for a pseudonym that editors could take seriously. My next step was taking key words and translate them into different languages to see if that produced some useful results. Bad idea. They were either too simple or too complex to use as a realistic last name.  So I was forced to go back to the mythology, this time focusing on my favorite number-13. It is said that the number thirteen is lucky for left-handed people (not that I can disprove this connection in my case) and it has also been a reoccurring number in my life. This fact along with the magical influence of the number 13 became a viable option for my pen name as long as I could find a connection between the number and a name I could use.  

Eventually, I was able to find the perfect myth to base my pseudonym on, which I will share in the not to distant future. My method is one of a thousand ways to discover a pen name that can separate you from a shared name or embody a name to match the writing you plan to publish.

At this point in my pre-published career, I’m not too worried about the pen name I’ve picked. I have some ideas, but ultimately it stems from a need to secure my place in the publishing market as an individual writer. For now, maybe it’s best not to have a name picked out or a set genre to write in. Maybe it’s just my insecurities about my current manuscript or if the audience I’m writing for will really enjoy my characters and stories. Thus, I leave you dedicated readers with this question–Do you care about the author’s identity once you have fallen in love with their writing or it is honestly just about the stories? 

Happy reading/writing!!!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “What kind of Writer Am I? Changing Names and Staking Claims

  1. It’s good to see you back blogging again, and awesome to hear about all your adventures! 😀
    As for the author’s identity, it is an interesting one. There are many authors who I do know about them and that enhances my enjoyment of their writing for one reason or another – for example the things I see Pat Rothfuss say on both his FB fan page and his personal page (which I’m on both, muhahaha) I find really interesting as they show a side to him which does come out in his writing but in totally different ways. Likewise, I know a lot about many of the more humorous writers I have read over the years, such as Douglas Adams and Stephen Fry, but not as much about Joseph Heller or Louis de Bernieres. And then there’s the ever elusive fantasy author K. J. Parker, who has cleverly worded every bit of information about themselves so as to not even give a clue as to their gender. They have revealed it is a pseudonym, and apparently on the French author side there is actually a slight hint it may be a woman, but nobody knows for certain. I have always found it interesting as there is a balance of both masculinity and femininity within the novels by Parker, so the identity there intrigues me but not knowing it doesn’t necessarily take away from the story.
    Anyway, I am sure you will make a name for yourself, whatever that name may be! You have such a genuine determination, and you are a good writer! And when you do, I’ll be one of the first to buy your book! 🙂

    • Thank you Matt! I hope to get back at least once a week because I forgot how important my posts were to me. And hopefully once I have my novel finished the rest of my identity will come along with it. 🙂

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