How to choose a pseudonym

I realise the title of this post suggests I’m going to reveal some kind of ten step formula, perhaps a clever strategy of sorts to come up with a suitable pen name, but in the name of full disclosure I should probably state right now that I have no such knowledge.

In fact, quite the opposite.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot of late since writing my article about Females in Fantasy (check it out here), and how a great deal of female authors still choose ambiguous, androgynous or straight-out male pen names to help the sales of their novels.

There are unquestionably plenty of other reasons for authors, male and female, to put a name that is not their own on the front cover of a book, but what I want to know is how they come up with such a name.

To get an idea, I sourced out some of the more well-known authors and their pseudo counterparts.

J.K. Rowling uses her first initial (Joanne), her grandmother’s first initial (Kathleen) and her last name. Easy.

Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series, is actually James Oliver Rigney, Jr.. It is said the idea for his pseudo-surname came from using the initials of his full name: J.O.R.. It is also speculated that he adopted it from Ernest Hemingway’s character of the same name from For Whom the Bell Tolls.

George Orwell, aka Eric Blair, chose a pen name that “stressed his deep, lifelong affection for the English tradition and countryside: George is the patron saint of England (and George V was monarch at the time), while the River Orwell in Suffolk was one of his most beloved English sites.”¹

Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) - The Cat in the Hat

Theodor Seuss Geisel became Dr. Seuss, because apparently his father always wanted him to become a doctor.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson invented his pen name, Lewis Carroll, by translating his first and last names into Latin, Carolus Lodovicus, and then anglicizing it.

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, were published under Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, at a time when female authors lacked credibility. Each of their pseudonyms began with the first letter of their actual names.

Children’s writer Dav Pilkey came up with Sue Denim, which I think needs no explanation.

So if I wanted, or was asked, to choose a pseudonym how would I go about it?

My initials, K.M.H., are all consonants, so no help from Robert Jordan’s strategy.

I could get back to the origins of my name, like Lewis Carroll.  Katy, which is thought to derive from either the Greek Aikaterine, or even earlier Hekaterine, would be Katherine in Latin. Hulme derives from the Middle English Holm (someone who lived near a holly tree). Katherine Holm? Katherine Holly even? Maybe I could just do a Madonna and go with the single named Hekaterine. Hmmm.

If I wanted to follow the Brontes, Robin Hobb, or J.K. Rowling, with an ambiguous sounding name, ‘Kit’ is the diminutive of both Christopher or Katherine. Christopher Hulme? Kit Hulme?

Or perhaps I could follow Dr. Seuss’s reasoning and just add a title to my name. I’ve never wanted to be a doctor, but I could see myself as a noble. Lady Katherine? She wasn’t the most pleasant character in Pride and Prejudice. Countess Hulme? Hardy ha ha.

Failing these, maybe I could cheat and consult a name generator. The Leprechaun Name Generator has christened me Tweedle O’Gold. The Fantasy Name Generator, has me as Lena Amethystmace. Or more subtley, The Pen Name Generator tells me I’m Cindy Capleton.

I think I’m having a slight identity crisis.  Honestly, I feel no closer to finding my bestselling counterpart. For the time being I think I’ll stick with the name my parents bestowed upon me, and focus my attention on writing my novel, as opposed to the name that will appear on its cover.

Anyone else have any interesting pen name formulas to share? A pseudonym of your own perhaps? For those of you who don’t, any ideas what you’d like to call yourself if you were told to choose one?

~Tweedle O’Gold~

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My long distance relationship with the Wheel of Time

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 16

Longest book you’ve read

Although it may be argued that this isn’t actually one book, and to be fair, I haven’t *exactly* finished reading it, I still think Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time deserves a mention here.

Jordan began writing the series in 1984, but in a sad twist, as he was working on the final volume, he passed away in 2007 after an almost two year battle with a rare blood disease.  Fortunately for fans, in anticipation of his untimely death Jordan left extensive notes for another author to complete his work should he not be around to finish it himself.  Author Brandon Sanderson was left to complete the final volume, but it was not long before he resolved to split it into three volumes, finding it impossible to fit everything into the one.

I’m still undecided as to how I feel about these books.  The first one took me a while to get into, the second one was good, the third one I sped through in a couple of days and now I’m about half way through the fourth one and haven’t touched it since the beginning of the year, although less by fault of the book than of my own.

So far, I can at the very least acknowledge them as extraordinary works of fantasy fiction, and with (according to Wikipedia) a sub total to date of 13 books, 11,308 pages, 635 chapters and 4,012,859 words (!!), I still cannot get my head around the sheer size of this epic series.

There are a few reasons we’ve had such a rocky affair, the Wheel of Time and I.  I started reading the first book at the beginning of 2010 on high recommendation from my beautiful best friend Mel, who has excellent reading taste.  She raved about them, but when I heard that there were set to be a total of 14 books, I have to admit, I was a little intimidated.  I was just about to start a writing course at uni and my pile of study related books to read was already unnervingly high.  Nonetheless, I read book one.  I found I was reading relatively sluggishly but I was soon enjoying it, and started book two just before I had to stop due to aforementioned mandatory reading.

I am often guilty of reading several books at a time, picking up where I left off when the mood suits me.  Sometimes I’m just in the mood for something familiar, something I’ve read before, something easy, or something epic.  So when I put book two down, I wasn’t too concerned.  Eight months later, uni had finished and I picked it up, only to find that the very things I had enjoyed about the book – the immense detail and plethora of main characters – were the very things that were hindering my desire to continue reading.  Too much time had passed and I found it impossible to pick up where I left off.  There were too many characters and too much information to remember after so long an absence, and it was a genuine effort to try and recall what had happened.

I was reluctant to start again from the beginning, knowing that I had struggled with the first few chapters of book one, and acutely aware that no less than ten more books in the series awaited my attention.  So what to do?

Cheat, of course.

I googled “Wheel of Time plot summary” and found myself a nifty website which gave 1-2 line chapter summaries.  Win.

I was ready to start my Wheel of Time journey once more.  I picked up the pace with book two, and as I said before, I sped through book three very quickly, I was enjoying it so much.

Then a sad thing happened.  Unfortunately, I started reading book four at a time when life decided to throw me some lemons when I really wasn’t in the mood for lemonade.  With my brain 90% occupied with work, money and life woes I found it more than difficult to concentrate on a series that ultimately requires a lot more attention than I had to give.  I put it down when I realised it had taken me several days to read only a couple of pages, and started reading the Secret Garden instead.  Simple, fun, brilliant.  I was in my happy place.

Since then, life has decided to back off with the lemon hurling and I have found that my brain is plenty more available for books requiring a certain degree of concentration.  Unfortunately, I have since procured even more books to read and am not sure where the remaining ten and a half Wheel of Time books will fit into that schedule.  I suspect that with a fourteen book series it is never going to be a convenient time to get into them, but considering the rave reviews, the massive following and the great gratification to be had in being able to say “I’ve read a 14 book series made up of 11,308 pages, 635 chapters and 4,012,859 words,” I think I’m just going to have to suck it up, go the distance and get back into it.

With the help of nifty 1-2 lined chapter summaries of course…

Anyone else completed the WoT endurance test?

~storytelling nomad~