To have a pen name or to not have a pen name that is the question. At some point in your writing journey you will have to decied what name you want on your work. Will it be your real name? A variation of your name? Will it be a name of your choosing. Will you have many pen names or just one? These are all real question and for us writers it can be a bit troubbling at times. I know it has been for me.
My pen name story:
I remember thinking in middle school when I started writing my first book about what name I wanted on my books. I liked my name but at the same time I was sure I could have one that sounded more authorish. :D When I met my husband and things started looking like they would last, I admit to trying on his last name. I knew Shiels would be a great last name for an author. (In my mind it was perfect, and so was he.)
Fast forward a few years. I published my first two books, The Royal Spy and Lady A under my name, Cassie M. Shiels but when I started thinking about writing contemporary romance. I considered the idea of a pen name. I thought long and hard about it. I even came up with the perfect name. I decided that my alter ego would have to have the name that could have only been mine in an alternate reality. A name that only belonged in a parallel universe. I blame watching a little too much, Doctor Who, for that kind of thinking.
I settled on the name, Cassandra Grimes. Here is why: 1. I didn't want a frivolous name that I wasn't attached to in any way. It had to still feel like me in some form. 2. My real name is Cassie, I was almost named Cassandra therefore in a parallel world that would be my name. Grimes would have also been my last name if my grandfather had never been adopted. Again a parallel universe thought. 3. I thought it sounded cool. I 'll have to name a character that name.
For a few weeks I loved this idea. I thought it was the best thing ever, but then it lost its appeal. I didn't want to look at my book on amazon or on the shelf and not see my name on it. Then my books that I pour my heart into would look like any other, not mine. I wanted to fully claim my work. As cool as I thought this pen name would be, I couldn't do it.
Still worried that I needed a pen name but wanting the book to have my name on it. I settled on the pen name C. M. Shiels for my contemporary works. It was still me. It would work great. This idea lasted a lot longer. But guys I want to see my name on all of my books. I started asking questions about pen names and paying attention to other Autors and two things stood out to me.
The first was how a few of my author friends were working to get rid of their pen names. Mostly because their books were not that different. Or they didn't want to deal with a pen name.
The second thing was that as authors it is a good idea to think about not confusing our readers. Especially if we are writing for both kids and adults. This thought made me feel certain that I had to have a pen name even though by then I didn't want one. I kept telling myself that if I wanted to write all my ideas I would have too. I had dreams of writing picture books, concept books, new chapter books, middle grade books, Young Adult books, New adult books and adult books in various genres. I seriously have tons of story ideas. If I stuck with this plan, yes, a pen name or two would be required. But then I started thinking about what I actually like to write and what I wanted to spend my time writing. Guess what it wasn't picture books. I love and appreciate them but that isn't me. I am a novelist. I read over 35 new chapter books before I decided that I could write them yes, but I didn't really want too. Middle grade would still be fun but I'm not sure I ever will write one. Maybe but maybe not. I figured out my true love is writing for Young Adults, new adults and adults. I know I still want to write in multiple genres, but I hope that if my readers know that then they won't be so shocked to see a princess story from me, then a clean contemporary romance, then a paranormal romance, then a fantasy and a romantic suspense. I am a multi genre book lover and that is what I want to write. And my heart wants me to write it under my name.
I understand I will have different kinds of readers. The split is still there. Those who read my princess books might not want to read my bridal shop romances. Thats great. I will have my name on both but my readers are welcome to avoid what they don't want and read any or all.
To help with this I have two newsletters. One is for those who like magic, princesses, dragons, made up kingdoms, vampires, etc and one is for those who like contemporary romance stories without magic. They are all clean, books straight from my heart and honestly they all sound like me so you could totally tell.
I hope my readers will love my multi genres with me. And I hope having my name on them won't throw anyone for a loop.
This decision wasn't taken lightly. Lots of thought and time went into it. For those writers who are still trying to figure it out I have a list of things to think about below. I hope it helps.
Things to consider:
1. Are your genres or age groups shockingly different? ( Kids vs. Adults, nonfiction vs. horror)
2. Are you willing to manage more than one name?
3. Do you need a pen name for legal or personal preference?
4. Would you rather friends and family not know it's you writing this work?
5. Is your name so common that it would be better to use a pen name?
6. Do you want to have a pen name for your traditional stories vs. your indi works?
7. Do you like your maiden name better?
8. Do you want it to keep your author life and your everyday life separate?
9. What if you really do become well known for your books? Would you want it then?
10. Do you want to clearly separate the books your write?
Thanks for reading and good luck writing!
~Cassie M. Shiels~