Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Me and George Eliot--Pseudonymous

I am a huge fan of George Eliot. Her real name, Mary Anne Evans, is unknown to most people. Sadly those who do know her may only know that too-sappy-for-me tale, Silas Marner. I consider her masterpiece to be Middlemarch which you can download at Gutenberg.org in written form here or in recorded form here. It has made many lists as one of the greatest novels written in English. It's sure on mine.

As writers she and I have little in common. My fiction is of the fluffiest. Hers delves into the very heart of man. But we do have something in common: pen names.

She chose a masculine pen name because she wanted to be taken seriously as a writer. Women writers in the Victorian Era were associated with light fiction. (Which is exactly what I'm trying to do.)

I have had to use pen names twice now. When my darling daughter and great son-in-law owned a bilingual magazine that reached out to a Hispanic population, I wrote for them but they felt I needed to use a Hispanic name. I chose an outrageous one, "Esperanza del Sol", which my son-in-law actually liked. So I've been published under that one.

Another magazine will publish an article and a story of mine next year but they usually do not use the same writer twice in an issue. Lo and behold! I need another pen name. Somehow Esperanza was too over-the-top for this very conservative children's magazine. So I reached into the family archives and pulled out Ann Argyle Fox, my great-great-great grandmother. She's buried here in the valley where I now live. I know almost nothing about her but I thought her name would look great in print.

It's way cool having a pseudonym. It's like having an alias or a secret identity. I highly recommend it. Plus, picking them out is a hoot. 

I wasted a lot of time looking into the whole issue of pen names and discovered quite a few which I thought were folks' real names. Probably the most interesting thing I learned is that nom de plume (literally "name of pen") didn't come from the French at all. The English made it up. The French used nom de guerre (name of war) instead and today use "pseudonyme."

When I published my novel last October, my mom asked me if I was going to use my real name. This worried me a bit. Perhaps she was afraid that I was going to shame myself in public? I went with the real McCoy but still have reasons to use another name from time to time.

I'd love to see a comment if you've had to use one yourself or if you have a favorite writer who uses one!


  1. Whenever I post something that I write on my blog, or even in high school when I was in NaNoWriMo I use the same pseudonym. Pleasure to meet you, Ann Argyle Fox. I am Miss Juliet Evermore. ;)

  2. I sing under a stage name - Adriana - that was given to me by someone I had planned to sing with. He actually thought that was my given name and called me that for six weeks. I never corrected him because I rather liked the sound of it!

    Although if I continue singing the type of music I am singing now I am thinking to go back to my actual name. Adriana is a persona that I use for performing and this music I am singing now I think requires a bit more truth-to-self than Adriana can give :)

    Apparently it is also the name Google has for me here too ;)

  3. One thing I've learned as I publish in several directions is that B and N will only shelve two books a year from any given author unless you're King, Clancy or Picoult ;)

    I just signed a nat'l contract under Mia Josephs and will sign another one w/ a different publisher under the name MJ Perry.

    Sometimes it's necessary b/c what I've published so far is small publishers, and the big publisher wanted to start with me as a blank slate. They have NO problems with me combining my names online so my peeps know who I am, but for sales and marketing and distribution, they needed separate names...

    Kind of funny.


    1. How interesting! I wondered why so many writers published under different names. And learning that about big publishers is fascinating too.

  4. I use the pen name “J. Lloyd Morgan” because I felt Jason Morgan was too common. I went to high school with another Jason Morgan, and I’m told there is a character on General Hospital with the same name. The results have been great. A web search for J. Lloyd Morgan will pretty much give references to me. The only downside is that people aren’t sure what to call me. Is it J? Is it Lloyd? I laugh when I tell them “Jason.”

    1. Way cool! J. Lloyd Morgan is a great-sounding name. My husband's father's name was J.C. No name, just initials. Most folks called him J. And my daughter's first name is Morgan. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!