Pen Names and Pseudonyms
Fake author names come in two versions. Pen Names for average scribblers like me, and Pseudonyms for those more sophisticated authors who populate literary works. (Although nom de plume, French for pen name, sounds equally highbrow.) Both mean basically the same thing. They’re made-up names for one reason or another.
For several years I wrote for a slick company magazine called Hatteras World, which they sent to Hatteras yacht owners worldwide to foster customer goodwill. Two of us took most of the photos and wrote most of the articles. To make it appear we had a larger staff, we wrote under pen names as well as our own. I used Ed Teach and C.J. Rackham, derived from the pirate Edward Teach who himself had the pseudonym Blackbeard, and Calico Jack Rackham, another notorious but colorful pirate.
One of the most famous American writers and lecturers was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, of course, who wrote under the pen name Mark Twain, which came from the days when a mate in the bows of a Mississippi riverboat would take depth soundings by lowering a weighted line until the weight hit bottom, then shouting to the captain the resultant ‘mark’ on the line. “Mark Twain” meant the depth was two fathoms or twelve feet.
Alice Sheldon, a counterintelligence analyst and experimental psychologist, wrote her sci-fi yarns as James Tiptree, Jr., after a jar of Tiptree marmalade she spotted while shopping.
David John Moore Cornwell was a real spy for MI6 and was ordered by superiors to adopt a pseudonym for his debut novel Call for the Dead. He chose John le Carré, which worked out fairly well for him.
Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto probably adopted the name Pablo Neruda mostly to save space and ink on his book covers.
Howard Allen Frances O’Brien was named by her eccentric mother after her father Howard.
She became famous as Anne Rice and chose two other concocted names, using A.N. Roquelaure, which means ‘Anne with a cloak’ and begs to be written in flowing script on covers, for her Gothic stories. She used Anne Rampling for her erotica because she didn’t want father Howard finding out.
Though he was not a doctor, Theodore Seuss Geisel won hearts young and old worldwide as Dr. Seuss and everybody has been pronouncing his pen name wrong ever since. It’s not Soose, but Soice. He was eventually granted an honorary doctorate by his alma mater Dartmouth. His birthday was 2 March.
Nora Roberts has somehow produced more than 225 highly popular novels that span three genres, enough to fill her own personal library, writing as herself and J.D Robb and Jill March, and also as Sarah Hardesty in the UK, enough pen personalities for tea parties without having to send out invitations.
Probably the most unusual pseudonym in English literary history was: T.R.D.J.S.D.O.P.I.I. It stood for The Reverend Doctor Jonathan Swift, Dean of Patrick’s In Ireland. Swift also used other pen names: Isaac Bickerstaff; A Person of Quality; A Person of Honor; M.B. Drapier; and A Dissenter.
I think he should just have stuck with the distinctive and memorable Jonathan Swift.
I may even use that nom de plume myself sometime.