By Darvell Hunt
Would you be more interested in reading a story written by Samuel Clemens or Mark Twain? My guess would be Mark Twain, but why? Does the name have more appeal or is it just because we’re familiar with stories associated with the name?
Would you be more inclined to read a novel written by Joe Hill or by Joseph Hillstrom King, son of Stephen King? My guess would not be Joe Hill, but in fact, these two names refer to the same person, but only one of them appears on a recently published novel. I imagine it would be hard writing under the shadow of such a famous father, but I’d be inclined to keep the famous name on my books. Yet I think I understand why he picked an alternate last name, because he doesn’t want his novel to be compared to Daddy’s writing. (What kind of bedtime stories do you think Stephen King used to tell his kids?)
Why use a pen name? Are there valid reasons to use one? Or is using a pseudonym just a “fun thing” we fiction writers like to do? Fictitious names for fictitious stories.
In my case, I’m considering using different names to publish in different genres. I’m currently writing both young adult material and more adult-themed thriller stories. It wouldn’t seem appropriate to use the same name for both, as I wouldn’t want to confuse a young reader who sees my name on a thriller novel.
We’ve been discussing this topic on various writing groups in which I participate. Many of my friends are trying to establish their writing identities before publication, which, in my opinion, is a good thing. It’s better than changing your name later on once you have created a solid reader base.
So don’t be surprised if in the near future you begin to see new writers pop up on your local bookstore shelves with similar names like Darvell Hunt, D. Dean Hunt, or even D. D. Hunt—all different variations of my given name. I might even consider writing romance under DeeDee Hunt, but maybe that’s pushing the idea a bit too far.