March 3, 2017

The Perils of Pen Names

By Rachel J. Good

“I don’t believe it,” a friend said. “I’ve been working with a therapist for years to combine my multiple personalities, and you’re deliberately splitting yours.”

Yes, I’d adopted another alias, or—as we writers prefer to call it—a pen name.

So how did I stumble into pen-name territory? I chose my first pen name when I edited for a romance company. They suggested pseudonyms to keep our editing separate from our writing. I began attending conferences and contributing to writing columns under my editor pseudonym and writing under a different name. The first conference I attended as an editor I ignored people calling my pen name until they started chasing me down the halls.

Another time a conference director sent a shuttle to the airport, but when I gave the driver my real name, he insisted I wasn’t on the pick-up list. As he scanned the sheet, I spotted my pseudonym.

I pointed to his clipboard. “That’s me.”

He looked at me askance, but let me board. After we arrived at the hotel, I fumbled in my purse for a tip. My wallet went flying, and credit cards scattered everywhere. His eyes widened as he helped pick up cards with various pseudonyms on them. (And, yes, I do get credit cards for all my pen names.) He backed away as I handed him some bills. I’m sure he probably worried they were counterfeit.

My third pseudonym came from a book packager. They hoped the series I was writing for them would catch on, and they’d be able to hire a stable of authors to churn out books. Alas, that didn’t happen, and I’ve remained the only name behind the series.

A few years ago, I began writing Amish novels. Because most of the books under my own name are for children and teens, I selected a well-known name in Lancaster County, PA, where the series is set. (The name, Rachel J. Good, also honors my deceased critique partner, Julie Good.) While on book tour in Lancaster, I had some interesting conversations with people who insisted we must be related.

Now that I’m up to four pen names, things usually go more smoothly, but I still have embarrassing moments. A few times, I’ve signed the wrong name on emails or autographed a book incorrectly. If it’s my real name when it should be a pseudonym, I’ll add w/a (writing as) and the correct pen name. But if I catch myself writing the wrong pen name, I’ll turn the mistaken letters into a small design. That’s where my illustration degree comes in handy. If you stumble across any of my books with hearts or other small designs in front of my name, you’ll know I had a momentary brain freeze while autographing. Who knows? Perhaps someday those autographed books will be collector’s items.
Despite the problems with pen names, they also have benefits. 

After all, you never know when you might need the witness protection program or have to hide out from the law (especially if someone reports you for discussing foolproof murder techniques in public, another peril of being a writer). And, oh no, now that I’m talking mysteries, do I need another pseudonym?
Inspirational author Rachel J. Good writes life-changing, heart-tugging novels of faith, hope, and forgiveness. She is the author of several Amish series in print or forthcoming – Sisters & Friends series, Love & Promises series, and two books in the Hearts of Amish Country series – as well as the Amish Quilts Coloring Books and the contemporary novella, Angels Unaware. Visit her at her website, Facebook, author page, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads. Her alter-ego, Laurie J. Edwards, is a former teacher and librarian with more than 2300 articles and two dozen books in print or forthcoming, who also juggles freelance editing and illustration careers. Find out more about her on her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. As Erin Johnson, she generally hangs around on Wattpad with her teen readers.

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