Names are hard to choose. When my children were born, I agonized over choosing names for them. With my son, we were literally going in the door to delivery, when my husband said, "Okay, we'll agree on Scott, right?" I shrugged, facillating till the end, and he said, "Right! Scott it is." And so, we named him Scott. It's a nice name, but I'm still not sure that was the name I truly wanted. It's like the grass is always greener--maybe that perfect name is out there somewhere, just waiting to be discovered...
Later when I became a grandmother, there was this big decision to make. What will the baby call me? Now for those of you who are grandmothers, you'll understand that this is a very big deal. This child is very beloved to you--okay, I'm totally ape-crap crazy over mine--so what he or she calls you is momentous.
I saw Paula Dean on TV yesterday--love her--and she said that her son wanted their baby to call her "Big Mama." She looked her son dead in the eye and said, "If you teach that child to call me 'Big Mama' then your big ass is out of the will." He settled for "Granny" which Paula said is fine if you're 80 or 90 years old, (I so agree) but in the end the baby couldn't say it and wound up calling her "Genny." Cute.
I wanted "Mimi" because I had a friend whose Mama called herself that, and I loved it, and because it's as close to "Mommy" as my daughter would allow. I still love it.
But what about a pen name? Do you have one? (aka nom de plume, pseudonym, literary double) According to Wikipedia, these names are taken for a variety of reasons--"A pen name may be used to make the author's name more distinctive, to disguise his or her gender, to distance an author from some or all of his or her works, to protect the author from retribution for his or her writings, or for any of a number of reasons related to the marketing or aesthetic presentation of the work. The author's name may be known only to the publisher, or may come to be common knowledge."
The most interesting reason listed above, to me, is retribution. Really? I guess if I were writing about the Ayatollah Khomeini, or the Taliban, I could at least understand the need for some discretion. I might even have reason to fear retribution, but surely my little sweet romance stories are not cause for such alarm. Or are they?
In today's society, it seems more and more easy to offend someone, somewhere, no matter what you do or say. Don't believe me? Try putting an amusing, but somewhat liberal comment on Facebook--okay, it was amusing to me, and probably more than a little liberal--you will get comments ranging from "I am surprised at your comment" to "How could you possibly say something like this??!!" The answer, of course, is that it seemed obvious to me that this is my space, and I can put whatever I darn well please on it. Unfortunately, not always the case.
So I had to think long and hard about using a pen name, for several reasons. I finally chose not to do it, because I love my own name, and I'm proud that I wrote a novel (not everyone can do it, folks) that actually got published, and not just once, but twice! (another one finished and coming out soon, hopefully) Also, there was probably no way in hell I could ever have decided on a name. Now, however, I have to worry a little bit about the fallout. In this age of Facebook and Twitter, everybody knows your business, after all. But for now, I am blissfully basking in the idea of my name actually being on the cover of a book! My name--my real name!
What do you think? Have you chosen to use a pen name for fear of fallout and retribution? Or just wanting the privacy? Shakespeare said "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
Do you agree?