How do you feel about pen names?



Despite all the reasons for doing so, I don’t like authors writing under multiple names. Mostly because this leads to me missing out. If I find a book I adore, I’ll look to see if it has any sequels. And then I look to see if the author has written anything else. Fiction, romance, sci fi, horror, fantasy, etc–hey, I’ll give it a shot.

Seanan McGuire, whose October Daye series I loved, came out with the InCryptid series. (The first is a fascinating intersection of human and fae lives, with a half-fey half-human protagonist. The second is about a family of cryptozoologists.)

As soon as I saw the ‘coming soon,’ for the first InCryptid book, I was determined to find it and read it. And I loved it, too.

Recently, I found the Newsflesh Trilogy (and devoured Feed. Sorry, bad pun.), by Mira Grant. It’s a post-apocalyptic zombie story–the outbreak isn’t contained, but people are surviving however they can. It’s also a fascinating take on how zombies are made–way more thought put into the science of how transmission works and how to prevent it than usual.

And then I read that Mira Grant is Seanan McGuire.

This book came out in late 2010, and I missed it! If I hadn’t seen it on a blog and thought it looked interesting, I might never have read it.

And that would have been sad.

About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

19 responses »

  1. I can understand authors writing under a separate pen name if they’re writing, say, erotica, and also want to have a career in children’s literature at the same time. But otherwise, I think authors should just stick to one name. Otherwise, like you said, who knows how many potential fans they’re missing out on?!!

  2. Marcia says:

    I, too, understand why authors use pen names, and it makes perfect sense. Except when it doesn’t. I didn’t know about Mira Grant before reading this, and I’m a HUGE Seanan McGuire fan and want to read everything she’s written. Probably, the info is available on her website, but I never thought about it. I’ll be checking out her Mira Grant books now, too.

    Another thing that bothers me is that I get used to referring to an author by her supposed name, and then find out it isn’t really hers. It feels weird. Again, I understand the reasons behind it, but as a normal, non-deranged stalker type of reader, I don’t like it much. (Even though I might do the same thing myself some day, for the same reasons. Eeeep.)

    In case you don’t know about it, though, there is a wonderful website that lists complete bibliographies for tons and tons of authors, including books written under their pen names That’s where I found out Kim Harrison is really Dawn Cook. Who knew?
    It’s very informative:

    Seanan McGuire is listed as a/k/a Mira Grant on her page. So it could be a good place to check your favorites to see if they have anything written under pseudonyms.

    BTW, I LOVED the Incryptid book, too. The Aeslin mice alone made it worth the read! *grin* I’ve got the next book, “Midnight Blue Light Special,” marked on my calendar with a release date of March 5. Can’t wait!

    • caitlinstern says:

      I never think to look for multiple pen names, though. I found an author recently who had four listed on her page. Four!
      In this case, something along the lines of ‘Mira Grant is Seanan McGuire’ was on the back of the book, so it wasn’t difficult to find…
      Thanks for the website, I’ll check it out.
      I know, me too. 😀

      • Marcia says:

        I have the Fantastic Fiction website as a permanent link at the top of my browser, I use it that often. That’s where I check the order of books in a series, for instance, when I’m posting a review on Bookin’ It. And where I check to see how many other series or stand-alone books an author has. Plus a brief bio, plus pen names, and more. And you can click on each book, too, for a synopsis. It’s really jam-packed with info. Hope you enjoy it. (Sometimes I just pick an author’s name at random, and I’ve found some interesting writers that way that I didn’t know about before.)

        I do think (back to the pen names issue) that many authors choose to remain incognito these days due to the dangerous world we live in. It adds one more layer of protection between them and the loonies out there. I can’t blame them. If and when I publish the book I’m writing, I’ll have to decide whether or not to use my real name, as well. So far, I’m okay with it, but that could change by the time the big decision roles around.

        • Marcia says:

          One more thought…I also think that some very serious writers also write books they don’t want associated with their name, and not necessarily erotica. But like the really formulaic light romances, a la Harlequin or Silhouettes. Those little books can be bread and butter, but if you are a major author of serious works, you probably would rather not publicize that you are writing them, too. Just a thought…

          • caitlinstern says:

            I see enough ‘x writing as y’ on books to make me wonder why some people even bother…
            In a perfect world, I guess you could write serious scientific texts and romance fluff and no one would care. 😉

          • Marcia says:

            I agree, it does seem to be a lost cause, especially in this day of internet info, but some of these authors have done it for a long time, and have a following under the pseudonyms now, too. I don’t know that any of it makes a difference today. Too much info out there and too many ways to check it out. Yeah, I’d like it better if you weren’t considered a hack for writing easy, light fluff that sells well, and if it wouldn’t impact your sales when you are ready to write your Great American Novel. Seems unfair, doesn’t it? Maybe with the rapid increase of self-publishing, it will gradually go away. You don’t have to worry about pleasing a publishing company, for one thing. So you have a bit more freedom and latitude, and could market your self-published books in different categories, with different strategies.

            Have you read David Gaughran’s “Let’s Get Digital?” A WEALTH of info there on so many things related to publishing. I think some of the older routes available to authors may have been instrumental in many using pen names. It’s a fascinating read, btw.

          • caitlinstern says:

            Oh, if only the world was fair!
            No, I have not read that. But I’ll check it out.

      • caitlinstern says:

        Went to the site you recommended. Looks pretty helpful–I like the ‘visitors also looked at these authors section.’

  3. cricketmuse says:

    Actually I like the nom name thing–I enjoy my privacy and writing under a different name ensures I stay out of the peering public eye. And I have added you to Book Boosters. Welcome to our bibliophiliac list!

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