Pros & Cons of a Pseudonym
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?