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.