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TO PSEUDONYM OR NOT TO PSEUDONYM--March 1, 2024

Updated: Mar 1


There are many reasons a fiction writer might choose to use a pseudonym. Perhaps her fiction is too close to real people and events. Would her third-grade teacher realize how deeply she traumatized her shy, insecure student when she forced her to stand in front of a roomful of mean girls and read her essay on how she spent her summer vacation helping her mother clean the houses of some of them? Would the mean girls see themselves as the bullies they had been? The odds were slim that any of them would read her murder mystery and even slimmer that they would recognize themselves as the monsters they were. But even as an adult, she still might fear their capacity for retribution. The solution: a pseudonym and well-disguised author photo.

Also, someone who is a successful cozy mystery writer might want to use a pseudonym for her noir mysteries to avoid confusing her fans. When they pick up a book with her real name on it, they know what they’re getting, a predictable but ultimately sweet story of true love overcoming all obstacles. How shocked they would be if, in the opening scene, a heavy-drinking down-on-his-luck private eye is graphically seduced in his office by a well-endowed blonde who is trying to persuade him to kill her rich husband.

The best example of the successful use of pseudonyms is Nora Roberts who was wildly successful as a prolific romance writer. Her alter ego, J.D. Robb, became equally successful writing science fiction police procedurals. Her fans know what to expect from her books by the name she uses for each genre.

As a short mystery story writer, it never occurred to me I might have a reason to use a pseudonym. I’ve rarely used characters who might be recognizable to people from my real life, although there are times when in my heart I knew who inspired them as I dispatched them off this mortal earth.

  Then came Sex & Violins.

I was invited to submit a story for a new anthology. The submission requirements included at least one sex scene and a central role in the plot for an orchestral instrument. Hmmm. I enjoyed coming up with the mystery part, but joining the world of erotica turned out to be much more difficult than I expected. However, I managed to put together a short scene that met the requirements and was essential to the plot so I could tell myself that there was nothing gratuitous about it.

There was a long delay in the publishing date because of behind-the-scenes issues at the publisher. I confess I was relieved. But the anthology has moved to a new house and will be released very soon.

And now we come to my dilemma. To pseudonym or not to pseudonym.

Which do you think I chose?  

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