Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why a Pen Name?

I have been asked why I am using a couple of different pen names now. I am writing thrillers that are pretty dark and a bit twisted, as well as ramping up the romance in them versus the light romance I write in my mysteries. I am writing these types of books under the pen name A.K. Alexander. I actually wrote them many years ago and had sent them out prior to having an agent. One of the scripts was actually picked out of a slush pile and went rounds at Harper. At the time (7 years ago) I kept thinking "this is it," because the editor even contacted me over the phone! However, after nine months of waiting, I received a letter that stated it wouldn't fit into their line. I was so disappointed that I can remember standing in my kitchen in tears. My middle kid who was nine at the time came in and saw me crying. He asked me why. I told him that I didn't think I could keep on writing. I had finally reached a point where I felt beat. I had been submitting for 12 years at that stage with continual rejection. I had completed 8 manuscripts. I figured that maybe it was time to quit.

However, my son said to me, "Don't you know, Mom, that God wouldn't have made you a writer if he didn't think you could do it." Okay, so how do you quit after that? You don't! I didn't. I went on to write Murder Uncorked and got an agent and within two weeks had a three book deal with Penguin. I have now sold nine books with them.

As the state of publishing changes, I realize as a mid-list author it is vital I change with it or get left behind.That is not an option. I LOVE to write. So, I am continuing to write and learn as much as I can about e-publishing and self-publishing.

I know I am now off on a tangent here, so I will get back to why a pen name. I am writing under a pen name for my thrillers because they are so different from my mysteries. They are a separate “brand.” This way a reader doesn't get confused when they download a Michele Scott book versus an A.K. Alexander book or a Sofia Cruz book. I used that pen name for my book “The Cartel.” It's not a thriller in the vein of the A.K. Alexander books but it is dark and has lots of sex and violence and the subject matter is very different from my thrillers, and definitely different from my mysteries.

I was wondering who else is using pen names out there and if so, what is your reasoning? Do you think it's a good idea?

Thank You!




Gayle Carline said...

First of all, your son had amazing insight, to say just what you needed to hear at that exact crossroad in your life. I think our kids are pretty terrific.

Second, I do think pen names are good for a lot of reasons. If you want to downplay your gender, depending on your genre, or if you want to break out into other genres, these are all reasons to break out the pen name.

I've probably shot myself in the foot, a little, because my mystery and my humor book are both in my name. When I got the mystery book published, I wasn't thinking about a humor book. Once I decided to publish my columns, I couldn't use a pen name because these essays had been published in my local newspaper under my real name.

Oh, well, the world will just have to get used to my split personality...

Michele Scott said...

I like your split personality!

E.K. Anderson said...

Nice blog I enjoyed it and I think you certainly have great reasoning behind your use of Pen Names.I just found it because I've been going back and forth on a pen name for awhile myself. I'm sorry to say I've never read any of your work but after reading the description "lots of sex and violence" I think I'll be looking into "The Cartel", unless you recommend a different work of yours for me to take a look into first?
If you have a spare minute or two I was wondering if you might give a new writer a bit of advice. I have my reasoning behind a Pen Name in the blog I just started here:
I would love your honest opinion on it.

Thank you and I look forward to reading more from you.