Over time, pseudonyms were rare, and even secret. The secrecy and anonymity provides some form of freedom to certain writers. For example, the current representation of this is the recent revelation that J.K. Rowling was the true identity of Robert Galbraith, author of The Cuckoo’s Calling.
Various newspapers asked Rowling why she chose a pseudonym, it was clear that she very much liked the idea of a “fresh start” almost, that pseudonyms and pen names provided. The main idea being that Rowling wanted to explore the idea about writing without the reputation, and seeing how big a pseudonym can become. So, after the occasion brought the matter of writing under a pseudonym to light, a certain question lingers in the air about why writers use pseudonyms, and why they might possibly be on the rise…
When asked about why certain writers like to write under a pseudonym instead of their own name, writer Bruce said: “As a writer your name is your brand and people therefore come to have expectations about your style, subject matter etc. Using a pseudonym means you can do something different from what is expected, have a degree of anonymity and perhaps enjoy a bit more creative freedom, and take creative risks.”
Going back to the J.K. Rowling example, it was said that the Harry Potter author wanted to write a crime novel, unlike the genres that her previous books (such as The Casual Vacancy and of course the Harry Potter series) were based in. Once again, her pseudonym gave her the ability to explore this and take a fresh start, almost.
Creator of Ouse Muse and author of poetry collection Intermittent Beings, Ian McEwen said: “Writing is words not something ‘from me’ nor is it an ‘expression’ of anything – it is construction that creates itself. Of course I have to accept that our society adopts a cult of personality as a lens to everything – often the first reaction of an audience is therefore the wrong one – to which I say read enough contemporary poetry and you might get over it.”
But there can also be a contradiction when it comes to pseudonyms. For not only can it provide freedom, but as well as that, it can constrict. So another question that can be asked is how secretive do writers with pseudonyms like to be?
“Well, that all depends on what I’m writing about!” answers writer C.L. Haden (@CLHaden on Twitter). “I’m out and loud with business writing because this is initially what I wanted to do. The other topics are a recent thing, and I have as much secrecy as I can. It sounds odd, but when people are reading your work, they build up a picture of you. Therefore there’s nothing more disappointing than finding out that picture isn’t what you imagined. Nowadays, I do lots of ghostwriting for others, so pretending to be someone else has become a way of life for me!”
It is clear that society is becoming more thoughtful, and some authors like to explore the possibility of freedom when using pseudonyms, and the extra creativity it provides.
So, after pseudonyms are becoming more popular, will there come a point where pseudonyms become a protective barrier for everyone, and used by everyone? Perhaps you use a pseudonym, what do you have to say? Comment below!