Let’s say that as a writer the gods are on your side. Let’s say that you’ve written something publishers and readers want, the editors are working on it as we speak and Ridley Scott has been sniffing around the film rights (I have a long commute – plenty of time to work on the fantasy). The big question you have to ask yourself in this situation is: What will your author name be?
I know, I know, I may at this juncture in my writing career be putting the literary cart just a tiny bit before the horse. But who hasn’t imagined themselves being interviewed on the Michael Parkinson show? No? Is it just me then? And yes, I know he’s retired, but he’d come out of retirement for me. Obviously.
All right, so indulge my ego-maniacal self for a moment, if you would, and have a think about it. How much does the name on the cover matter? Do you use your real name? Is it strong enough? If you choose something else, do you plumb the depths of familial antiquity and use your great granny’s maiden name or do you just choose what sounds best, whatever suits the genre in which you write?
Oh, I am plagued by the agony of decision. Here I sit on the train – not working on my novel – but spending my time instead sifting through the many permutations of my name, trying to get the combination just right: T.G. Wood (my mother’s maiden name); T.G. Slavin; Gertrude Wood; Gertrude Hure (my grandmother’s maiden name).
Stephen King got lucky, he already had a strong name, why mess with it? Charlotte Bronte may as well have the winds of the Yorkshire Moors whipping through the letters. The name Ernest Hemingway conjures salty air, aged whiskey and cigars.
Or perhaps these names have just come to embody what those authors have so famously written. Maybe if Ernest Hemingway had been a dentist his name would have conjured up nothing more than Novocain and spittle bibs.
If you think of other author names that aren’t so lyrical, it doesn’t make any difference, they still make you imagine what they were renowned for. Think Enid Blyton, A. A. Milne, George R. R. Martin and you think of countryside adventures with lashings of ginger beer; wise, tubby little teddy bears; naked dwarves cavorting through wine-soaked orgies (or is that just me?).
All good points, I’ve decided. But, you know what? As I was sitting here typing this masterpiece of blogging literature/complete drivel, it came to me in a blinding flash of clarity – really, trying to choose my famous author name is just another form of procrastination. It’s the mental equivalent of picking the fluff out of the back of my hair dryer. It’s just another trick my brain has employed to put off doing any actual work for just a little longer. A sleepy, easy little daydream it can snuggle into and doze for a while. (Notice how I treat my brain like it’s a separate entity? Thereby relieving myself of any responsibility for my behavior. It’s a good trick that.)
Right, I’ve decided for now Trudi Slavin will do. It’s not glamorous or romantic, dangerous or windswept, but maybe one day it will gather a patina of something more exotic and exciting. But in order for that to happen, I have to actually write the damn books.
Oh but, Michael, if you’re reading this (and why wouldn’t you be?), I’m available any time. Just a phone call away. It’s no trouble, really. Call me, we’ll do lunch.
- What would your author name be? Arthur C. Duck? Abyssinia Sweet? Piccolo de Burgh? I’m dying to know.