Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Aaaaand we're back!

And for a second day running! Thanks for the support yesterday and for letting me come back!

My job today is answering Becky’s question: I know you write as both Jennie Bentley and Bente Gallagher, so what are the advantages of a pseudonym? The disadvantages? Is it really twice as much work?

Ah yes, the pseudonym.

As some of you might know, I almost ended up being known as Charisma Crafton. When Berkley asked me to come up with a pseudonym for the DIY-series, I started wracking my brain for a good name.

(I don’t think it was anything personal, by the way. Yes, I know my name is slightly weird—that’s how I ended up as a character in Kelli’s new series. I have an unusual, AKA interesting, name. But Berkley asks pretty much everyone to come up with a pseudonym, so I’ve decided not to take it personally. Since I know I have a weird name, I was prepared for the question to surface sooner or later, anyway.)

In my attempt to comply, I made up lists of names I thought I could live with, since sooner or later I knew I’d have to introduce myself as my pseudonym. I picked Bentley—and Benton and Bennett—because they’re close to my real first name, and because I wanted to have a connection to my new name. Then I picked a bunch of names I thought sounded suitable for a writer of DIY mysteries. Wood was one of them. Carpenter another. I think we even considered Hammer and Nail. It was at about this same time that we, the family, made a trip to Pittsburgh, where I fell in love with a neighborhood called Crafton, and I thought that might make a good last name for a hobby-mystery writer.

After that I came up with a few first names I liked, and then I sent the combined list to my agent for her input. It was someone in the office up there in Noo Yawk who came up with the Charisma Crafton combination; I know Charisma wasn’t on the list I sent them. They loved it, though. I’d love it too, if I looked anything like a Charisma. Or if I were writing erotic romance. As it was, I couldn’t imagine standing up in front of a group of strangers saying, “Hi, I’m Charisma Crafton and I write about home renovation.” When my editor said, very diplomatically, that Jennie Bentley sounded friendlier and more approachable, I could have kissed her.

Then A Cutthroat Business sold, and I needed a new name. And this time, both agent and editor pushed me to stay with my own. I didn’t really want to. Again, it’s weird. If you don’t know how to pronounce it, you probably won’t say it right. Most people misspell it, which is a problem if you’re trying to find me on Google—and I do want people to find me on Google. On the other hand, I don’t want people to find me anywhere else, and the real me is all over the internet, with phone number and address, which isn’t great when Big Al gets out of prison and decides to visit his favorite author.

They insisted, though, and I complied, so the second series will be published in my own name.

Now, to actually answer the questions: No, it isn’t twice as much work. I have one website and one Facebook page, although I have two Twitter handles. Sometimes I get myself confused with myself and answer people from the wrong identity. It makes it difficult for them, but I know what I mean.

Some of the advantages and disadvantages of a pseudonym I’ve already touched on. Pseudonyms are great if your name’s weird, or if you don’t want anyone to know your name or who you really are. Traditionally, steamy romance writers use pseudonyms so their kids’ teachers and friends’ parents won’t freak out because mom’s writing about sex. If you’ve got a thriving career writing one type of book under one name, and you want to branch out into another type of book, not related, a pseudonym can come in handy, too. (Eh, Becky?) That probably does become more work, though, if you can’t piggyback one identity on the other, since you have to start each identity from scratch. And the literary world is full of midlist writers who changed their pseudonym to get a second chance at publication and success. We stand and fall with our sales, and changing your name wipes the slate clean. Beautiful, innit?

As for disadvantages... it isn’t always easy being someone else. I’ve introduced myself by the wrong name, I’ve signed books with the wrong name—which sucks, because then you have to buy them—and there have certainly been plenty of times I’ve sat staring into space while someone was trying to get my attention with the wrong name. I live in fear that one day I’ll be walking across a hotel lobby somewhere, and I’ll hear a voice calling, “Hold the elevator, Jennie!” and I’ll let the doors close in Nora Roberts’s face because I won’t remember who I’m supposed to be that day.

Now a question for you: If you had to come up with a pseudonym for yourself, what would it be, and why? And to make it more interesting, why don’t you make it a pseudonym for a genre you’d probably never, ever write in, like erotica or space opera or Amish inspirational romance.

If things go well—and after this they may not—I’ll be back tomorrow to answer these questions from Graham: What is the best piece of advice you ever received about writing and/or the publishing business itself? And how did you put it to use?

Fair warning: it’ll probably be a short blog, because right now I can’t think of anything to say.



Rae Ann Parker said...

Oh I dream of the day when I would actually need a pseudonym. When one smart editor would buy one of my kidlit books and a second smart editor would buy my women's fiction books. So of course I've thought of the pseudonym fondly. I think I would pick something that I could answer to without something like your possible elevator story happening, a last name that's a family name or close to mine. But who knows? Hopefully I'll get the chance to decide one day.

Jennie Bentley said...

Hiya, Rae Ann! Nice of you to stop by. Now, why would you need a pseudonym? Your name is perfectly fine. It sounds very authorly, as a matter of fact. Especially for women's fiction, I'd think, although seems like it'd work well for kidlit, too. You just hang in there, sugar; one day you'll get the opportunity to decide!

Jeannie Holmes said...

When my agent was first shopping my book around, I was writing under the name "J. K. Holmes" for one of the reasons you mentioned: easier to pronounce and spell. (You'd be amazed by how many people can't pronounce "Jeannie" correctly.) When we sold to Bantam Dell, they wanted me to keep my full name instead of the initials. People still call me JK and I'll answer. Heck, if they get close to the correct name, I'll answer. :)

Oh, and my Amish Inspirational Romance author name would be Prudence Priscilla Goodman...just in case you were wondering.

Jennie Bentley said...

Prudence Priscilla Goodman is perfect. Although I have to say the thought of you writing Amish inspirational romance under any name is mindboggling.

So how *do* you pronounce Jeannie? I mean, I think I know, but suddenly I'm worried...

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Thanks for coming back, Bente/Jennie!

I picked a pseudonym with a first name close to mine exactly so I might have a chance of answering. But at my VERY first Bekka Black event in New York I wrote the wrong name on my nametag and had to ask for another one. Hannah Vogel might have spy instincts, but I clearly would have been caught instantly in Nazi Germany.

Gabi said...

I think you're right about Charisma. On the other hand, I think you're editor might have been wrong when she said "Charisma" sounded unfriendly. Too friendly, maybe.

Jennie Bentley said...

Gabi, LOL! Yeah, maybe it was too friendly, instead of not friendly enough. Either way, I tend to agree it's not a name that's particularly well suited to a sweet cozy writer.

Becky, yeah, exactly. A nametag is one thing, though; just wait until you deface a hardcover book with the wrong name, and you have to buy it. Then I bet you won't make that mistake again. (I adore your pseudonym, btw. Very young, hip, and vampy.)

Kelli Stanley said...

Ah, my darling Bente ... a name for which I'll be forever thankful (I've had requests from readers that your character continue--you're a favorite!) :)

I think Charisma sounds like a Las Vegas show girl, and I'm glad you prevailed with Jenny Bentley, which has a wonderfully comforting and comfortable feeling behind it.

And JK, I think you should maybe do Amish Horror? Just think of all that farm equipment ... ;)


Jennie Bentley said...

Kelli, my sweet... was there ever any doubt that I'd be a favorite?!

Seriously, though, with the personality you gave her, I'm not surprised. She's quite interesting, isn't she?

Amish horror... now that's something I didn't think of!

Kelli Stanley said...

NEVER any doubt, babe, as long as your name is attached!! :)

I'm thinking Amish Horror is the next big wave ... think of the fun you could have with Amish vampires!! ;)


Jennie Bentley said...

Oooh, Amish vampires. Quel horreur. Imagine a poor Amish woman being turned into a vampire and trying to keep it secret. Or one of those poor oppressed Amish teenage boys, who suddenly wants to bite everything in sight. Someone should definitely write that. It won't be me, though. But one of the vamp girls. What do you say, PP?

Shane Gericke said...

Oh, thank God you didn't. Charisma Crofton sounds like a stripper. Thought there could be more money in that than books :-)

Shane Gericke said...

Though Kel was much more classy with "Las Vegan showgirl."

Jennie Bentley said...

There's definitely more money in stripping. Of course, it depends a little on how you look nekkid, and most of us writers are probably better off sticking to writing in that respect. I know I am. If I needed one, my stripper name wouldn't be Charisma Crafton, though, it'd be Lantana DuBois. I picked it out a long time ago.

Shane Gericke said...

I wanna be Dan Hammer. It sounds so tough and it'd E-Z to spell!

Senay said...

Hi Jennie, Thanks for this post. I have a question. I am a European author writing her first novel. It will be published in the US. I was born in Turkey, but grew up in The Netherlands. What do you think? Will my name be difficult for Americans to pronounce? I haven't sorted this out yet with my publisher.
Thanks for responding,
Senay Ozdemir

Jennie Bentley said...

Senay, that's something your publisher will have to tell you. My publisher asked me to come up with a pseudonym because the genre I'm writing it is very all-American, geared toward the middle American small town readership, and they didn't want anything to detract from that. My other publisher was just fine with my name just the way it was. It varies from publisher to publisher and from genre to genre, and the only people who can answer the question for you, is your editor. I would suggest asking him/her what he/she thinks. If they have a problem with your name, they'll let you know, though. Good luck!

Suzanne said...

This is an excellent post! I've always wondered about a pseudonym because I have a difficult last name (See: Polish!) but I love it, so I kind of want to force my readers to learn how to spell it. If Dostoevsky and Markovski can get away with it...

But if I had to, I'd go with Suzanne Mishkovski, which is the way my last name should be pronounced in Polish.

And, if I wrote erotica? My friend's gave me a name: Suzie Strapless. I almost want to write erotica just for that!

Jennie Bentley said...

Suzie Strapless? I love it. That'd be enough to make me want to write erotica, for sure. And Suzanne Mishkovski isn't tough to remember or spell. Although I have a Polish friend whose last name is Czapliewicz, and there's about a dozen ways to misspell that. It's something an author has to decide to do in concert with the publisher, though.