Pros & Cons of a Pseudonym


PainTreasureby C. Margery Kempe

Did you know my name isn’t real? Okay, it’s real but not my given name. I write — at present — under three different names. The original Margery Kempe was a medieval mystic; she was a real rebel and forged an entirely new way of showing her faith, which annoyed a lot of people. The one sin she struggled with was sex. If she lived now, she wouldn’t have that struggle I suspect, but embrace her lust without shame.

I figure I’m channeling that alternative history of Marge.

I know a lot of folks take noms de plume for writing erotica and erotic romance because they’re afraid of the scrutiny of others, but I mostly took it on as branding. Under my given name I’ve struggled with finding an audience because every thing I publish seems to be different than what came before it. People who like one of my books don’t know if they’ll be interested in the next one.

I advise not doing that (>_<) but I can’t seem to help it — except with the pen names.

With C. Margery Kempe you know you’re getting the sexy. Sometimes with love, sometimes without, but always with the hot and steamy. With Kit Marlowe, on the other hand, you might be getting love and sometimes a little suggestive heat, but no sex. I’m considering a fourth name for my crime writing, largely to distinguish it from main identity and its elusive, eclectic nature, but also because the crime writing I do tends to be very dark noir. You may not be surprised to find that it’s a genre still largely perceived as ‘masculine’ despite the many female readers and writers.

But it’s harder to get reviews and word of mouth buzz because most men don’t like to be seen praising women; praising someone is seen as putting oneself in a subordinate position. Even interviews go badly for women writers in a different way than they do for male writers, who are more likely to be challenged on their expertise than asked about their shoes, weight or children. I’m really grateful to the crime-writing guys like Paul D. Brazill and Richard Godwin, who have always generously supported my writing. But I’m also frustrated that so much of the field seems so matey. I’m often made to feel as if I am intruding on conversations if I offer an opinion.

There are many aspects to consider. Sometimes it’s fun to have an argument between my selves on Facebook; it amuses me. Sometimes fellow writers are nonplussed because they don’t remember that I’m these different names (“It’s me, logged into my other account!”). And maybe I am splitting my audiences when I should be trying to join them together. I just don’t know. They’re not secret identities — I always make sure to be as transparent as possible — and they’re not sockpuppets, so I like to think of it as “my team” (does that sounds weird?). I will use saltier language as CMK than I generally will as Kate, mostly because my dad is on Facebook and I don’t want to give him a heart attack.

What do you think? Are pseuds useful? Do you want to keep a distance between your personas?

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19 Comments

  • abbiefoxton
    April 26, 2013 at 8:28 am

    You should have kept Kit Marlowe for your crime, but it works in the bedroom also. I hope you keep intruding on conversations, I’m sure it makes their ears and eyes prick! I enjoyed this Mystic Marg.

    • cmkempe
      April 26, 2013 at 10:23 am

      Hee, thank you. I do get a kick out of teaching Kempe. My students always hate her as much as her fellow pilgrims dud. Sexual repression makes you odd.

  • Kemberlee Shortland
    April 26, 2013 at 10:07 am

    As you know, I write erotica/erotic romance under a pen name, Scarlett Valentine. Originally, I wasn’t going to tell anyone. I didn’t need my family knowing I write that level of steam. They have a hard enough time with my romance which I write under my own name. But after I contracted the first story with a publisher, they outed me. Once out, it’s hard to go back inside. Now everyone knows Scarlett is me and I’m Scarlett. She’s my misbehaving side πŸ˜‰ The problem is that now everyone knows she’s me, why don’t I just write under my own name? I guess because Scarlett is already established . . . even though she’s seriously behind in her work.

    I’ve been toying with another genre myself, but considering I’m behind on my own work, and Scarlett’s, it’s not like I have the time. I do have the pen name though if I ever need it πŸ˜‰

    • cmkempe
      April 26, 2013 at 10:25 am

      I love my idea for the new pen name, in fact I had it before I thought maybe I should use it. So watch out πŸ˜‰ Scarlet might get pushed aside by the new one!

  • Kate Robbins
    April 26, 2013 at 10:17 am

    “There are many aspects to consider. Sometimes it’s fun to have an argument between my selves on Facebook; it amuses me.”

    Haha! I’m having a hard enough time reconciling my real name with my pen name. I can’t imagine how you juggle three. Though it sounds like you’re having a lot of fun with it. πŸ™‚

    The decision to go with a pen name was because of all the Bs in Debbie Robbins. I kept Robbins because it’s Scottish and I’m writing Scottish historicals. So I needed a first name that was short, direct and cheeky like me. Kate fit. πŸ™‚

    • cmkempe
      April 26, 2013 at 10:28 am

      I approve, of course, bring a Kate myself! πŸ˜€

      • cmkempe
        April 26, 2013 at 10:28 am

        “Being” >_< can't type today!

  • Lucy Lit
    April 26, 2013 at 10:34 am

    I think pseudos serve a purpose depending on the specific genre. As a reader, I almost expect it. As a newbie author writing my first erotic romance, I adopted the pen name of my existing book review personality mainly to appease the hubs. He was horrified that my writing would bleed into my day job & impact the conservative population. I assured him that a large percentage of those conservative folks also read all types of romance fiction. LOL But to keep peace in the household, I will continue to use a pseudo.

    • cmkempe
      April 26, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      Peace is important! It’s amazing how much broader people’s reading habits are than we sometimes assume, right?

  • madelineiva
    April 26, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    I don’t know, gals, maybe it’s just the hermit inside of me wanting her due, but I LOVE having a pen name — and that not everyone in my “real” life knows I’m writing Lady Smut. I find it freeing–like streaking nude through the forest and jumping into a lake when no one is around–that kind of free. I think I’m often too anxious to please the people in my ‘real’ life. I feel free of judgement, free of all that “have you published yet” snark. I’m writing this stuff because I love it — end of story.

    • cmkempe
      April 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      And that’s awesome! “Getting away with it” can be a delicious feeling πŸ™‚

  • st9ja
    April 27, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Wow! For the first time in my life I found a writer that I can relate to. I have 4 twitter accounts that basically represent the different parts of me . I have struggled with the question of merging my audience or killing my aliases. Reading this is so reassuring! Thank you!,

    • cmkempe
      April 27, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      I’m so glad it was helpful! I have a shared secret twitter account where we can say things we’d never say in any of our known accounts. It’s quite therapeutic.

  • Elizabeth Shore
    April 27, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Great post, Kate. This is a topic I’ve thought a lot about. I’m Elizabeth Shore mainly because, well, my real first name actually is Elizabeth and my real last name is too hard to pronounce and always gets misspelled. It also just doesn’t sound as “romantic” as Shore does, at least to my ears. In addition, I echo what Lucy said. I keep myself and Elizabeth Shore separate for day job-related reasons. (sigh). Some people unfairly judge erotic romance and those who write it, so although I hate that, I’m aware of reality.

    I’ve been considering for some time now writing in the horror genre and if I were to do that I’d certainly adapt another nom de plume. I wouldn’t want my readers expecting steam only to get gore! :-0

    • cmkempe
      April 27, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      I think tht makes a lot of sense with two genres soooo different, so I’m definitely leaning toward the fourth pseud. Spelling matters a LOT as I learned from my books PELZMANTEL and UNIKIRJA, otherwise known as those titles no one can spell >_<

  • ellaquinnauthor
    April 27, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    I love my writing name. I says historical romance like my real name couldn’t. And no I didn’t pick it because of Julia Quinn. In fact I hadn’t ever heard of Julia when I decided to use my g-g-grandmother’s name. Great post. I tweeted.

    • cmkempe
      April 27, 2013 at 5:29 pm

      Thanks for dropping by and for haring he post. It’s really appreciated! I think your name definitely sounds elegant and that fits historical for sure.

      • cmkempe
        April 28, 2013 at 7:03 pm

        Boy, you’d think a WRITER could type better than that >_<

  • cmkempe
    April 29, 2013 at 8:23 am

    Reblogged this on C. Margery Kempe and commented:

    How many names do you have…?

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