I've been thinking lately of a time when I actually become an author. An author who has published novels and chapter books and even children’s books. An author whose books can bring tears to readers’ eyes or make them laugh while in public transportation or give them something to think about days after they turn the final page of my book. An author remembered.
But then I think, Do I actually want my name to be there? I guess it’s more preference than requirement. An author’s byline is the author’s choice, right? And this brings me to the deliberating mindset I have right now.
In a way, I like the idea of hiding behind a name. Knowing Lemony Snicket hid behind that name has kept him mysterious and loved (and I’ve only recently found out that his real name’s Daniel Handler and that he is, in fact, still . . . wait for it . . . alive!). Using another name can give me access to stories around me without having the people think that “Oh, she might use my words in her book” or “She just wants to hear my story so she can mangle it and mutilate it until it becomes a subplot in her book.” There is freedom in pseudonyms. There is also that protection from unwanted pain. I mean, I don’t know, maybe there would be some sort of emotional barrier between the book author and my real life. It’s like, if people talk about the book, they become honest, so even if they say bad things about it (“The plot’s so predictable,” “Why does the girl always die,” “No imagination”), I can feel no obligation to defend it. (Though I would probably defend it since I cannot block my ego from being crushed.) I like the idea of spreading the book by my pseudonym to the world without feeling like I’m doing shameless plugging, conceitedly broadcasting my baby to thousands of strangers. I like pseudonyms.
Then again, I guess the sad part is that I won’t go to author meet-ups and won’t get book signings. I won’t have my picture on the About the Author section of the book (I’d probably put a picture of a fluffy bunny instead, for no reason). I won’t get to brag that I am, finally, a published author. I’d be a mystery (which isn’t really a bad thing), and people will never know the genius that I am (and in this sentence lies the reason I probably do need to use a pseudonym, proud, conceited little “genius” prick).
Using my real name, on the other hand, would be awesome simply because I don’t need to hide. I can be the writer that my book proves me to be. I can talk to random people and aspiring writers and make them reach for their dreams. I can inspire (I hope). I can say to the whole world that I did something with my life. And maybe there is also freedom in using my real name. Freedom to just be me. Freedom to write. Freedom to ask for permission to use other people’s stories. I don’t know. Freedom.
However, what I fear most about making myself known is disappointing people or having people act differently around me. They may not like my book, but they consider themselves good friends and say that they loved it. Or they can consider themselves good friends by being brutally honest with me, that my book sucks, that I lack originality, or that I talk too much to myself. And this may even lead to me not wanting to write anymore because obviously I suck at being a writer. It may mean that, since they know I write, they would make me write what they want to happen in my story. I have a very strong resolve (insert sarcasm here). Manipulation is not the best attack (really, please don’t). And I’m afraid that I’d lose myself in the name that is printed on the book and the person who walks and talks is just the robot assigned to put the words on print. Basically, having my real name on a book would just mean I want to be famous (which all of us secretly wishes for—attention-seeking nine-year-olds). Everyone who has read my book or heard about it would know me. And I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing because when I’d be walking down the street, people might recognize me and that’s kind of scary (which defeats the purpose of the word famous).
So that’s my problem. Well, it’s not a problem yet since the book in question has not even been born. It’s sort of preemptive planning. I want to understand what author’s think when they decide to use their real name or a pseudonym. Any authors out there who can help this poor confused soul? Your analyses can be very helpful and are pretty much welcome (just as long as you explain very gently, my ego is a wee bit sensitive and I might just delete your comment). Seriously though, I’d like to hear your thoughts, people.
If you become an author, would you use your real name or a pseudonym?