Pen Names

Instead of a regular writing update this week, I have some thoughts that I want to get off my chest.

I’ve been turning something over in my mind. Pen names. A lot of authors use them. But when is it okay to reveal your pen name? Is it okay to go under a different name online and not tell anyone that it isn’t your real name?

And the reason I’ve been turning this over?

Phoenix Grey is not my real name. It’s a name that means a lot to me, because it’s the name that gave me the confidence to step into the online world and have people read my writing. It’s the name under which I write, and blog, and under which I’ll publish any fiction that gets published. Everything else about me online is real.

So what’s in a name?

Well, my real name is Victoria. I started writing under Phoenix because I didn’t want those around me to know what I was doing. Or a few other things about me that I have revealed online.

I’ve been living a double life, and I am sorry to anyone who may be disappointed or angry at me about this.

I am still going to continue to blog and write under Phoenix Grey. The reason for that is I don’t want my personal opinions on the world or politics to colour my fiction writing.

I have ambitions of being a journalist, and writing non-fiction, and I want to keep the two worlds as separate as possible.

But I’m tired of keeping the secret.

I welcome all comments on this. Specifically, what do you think of pen names? What’s the right way to handle them?

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41 thoughts on “Pen Names

  1. I think pen names are a way to keep your private life separate from your writing life or “public writing” life, if that makes sense. I know several other people who blog under pseudonyms because they want to keep their name private. And I have an author friend who’s published several books under one name, and then started a brand new series and author brand with a new pen name. So I think it’s really up to you. I like the idea of pen names, and I toyed with the thought of using one myself, but I think ultimately decided I’d just confuse myself. πŸ˜›

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is the confusion risk! πŸ™‚
      Keeping my private life separate was the main reason for having a pen name. And I know a lot of authors do it, but it’s the question of how private to keep it? Is it as effective a pen name if everyone knows who you are, as if they don’t? Perhaps not an easy question to answer. Thank you for your response. It’s good to known that other bloggers are under pseudonyms as well. It seems that almost everyone I have come into contact with is using their real name at least in part.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. i too have been pondering this question as well, what’s the point of my own moniker. but it still makes me smile, which in part, helps writing on – or off – line remain a fun endeavor. it also gives me a break from being me, which despite my high level of narcissism, is a welcome relief! it may also allow me the opportunity to approach issues more reflectively and personally but time will have to see if that’s true. in the end a good pen name is just a few more words, only worth it if they count. p.s. nice to meet you victoria πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you and nice to re-meet you. πŸ™‚
      Pen names are a way to be not yourself. I enjoy that about being Phoenix. She’s not my with my problems. She’s just the rest of me. A freer me.
      It does help to be more open, I think. Because of the anonymity involved.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m good with pen names, and you are Victoria (victory) of the Phoenix! πŸ™‚ It’s fun to know you’re real first name too, but I’m happy calling you whatever makes you the most happy. (I think your name is beautiful btw! πŸ™‚ ). Names are an awkward thing. I use my maiden name, but we chose to do that because it’s a bit of an alliteration….easy to remember, but now I’m finding it’s more difficult to spell. hahaha

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    1. I like that: Victoria (victory) of the Phoenix. πŸ™‚
      And thank you. I’m glad you’re okay with it (and that you like my name). πŸ™‚ And I don’t mind too much what you call me. That’s why I chose to put my real name in the post. But Phoenix is my fiction moniker.
      Names are awkward. It’s hard sometimes when you want to keep two parts of your life separate. I suppose using your maiden name is a good idea, because it’s still personal to you, but it’s different from your “everyday name”. And, helpful it has a ring to if, of course. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha It’s a pain when it comes time to sign things. It’s funny, though, so rarely does anyone call me Rachael that it asked grabs my full attention when I hear it. I guess I kinda live my own name too. It’s a huge turn around from when I was a little girl. I hated my name and my hair. The former I thought was a baby name and the latter is curly and crazy. I’ve grown to live both. Names are a strange thing with a power to them I am not sure I fully understand. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I use to hate my name as well. I thought it sounded too “posh”! And of course everyone tried to shorten it and I didn’t like that. But as I got older I started to like the old-world sound of it.
        Names do have a strange power. They say that a name has a personality, and that informs your personality. Not sure how true it is, though.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I can’t imagine you as a Vicky. Of course, I rarely got called anything other than Rachael by anyone outside my family until I met Karl. He started calling me “Rae” and then suddenly, as I got out in the world more, I started hearing “Rach” which really really threw me off. Now I’m used to it and it doesn’t bother me. Sometimes I kinda like it. haha I MIGHT shorten a name like Victoria to Vica or Victory but not Vicky. haha πŸ™‚ You could totally be Vica. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Hmm, some names shorten easier than others. Long names tend to get the worst of it. I think people just want one syllable to say.
        Rae isn’t one I’ve heard before. Although Rach is.
        Vica. It’s different. In a good way I think. πŸ™‚
        Unusual is refreshing.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I have always blogged under a pen name. I’m a fairly private, reserved person but sometimes what I write is personal… So a pen name allows me the freedom to be more expressive. I am more inclined to use my actual given name (Fiona) these days but I avoid use of my surname. Or if I must have a surname I use my ‘maiden name, not my married name. My maiden surname is a far more common name, for starters but secondly (and it could be considered petty of me) I just do not want my in-laws interfering. They’re very uptight religious fundamentalist folks and in the past they’ve had a dig at me for besmirching the family name (*eye roll*) so it’s much easier to go by my family of origin’s name. They’re far more laid back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds like a good reason to not use your married name. Family can be difficult when it comes to really expressing our true selves. But it’s good that you’ve found a way to do it that avoids conflict. I don’t think you’re being petty at all.
      I think when we first start out experimenting in this world of blogging, we tend to want to hide ourselves a little, and as we become more confdent, it’s easier to expose at least a little part of ourselves. That’s why I didn’t put my last name up on the post. I still want to preserve a little piece of anonymity while still being honest about who I am. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I also went through a stage where people from a church I used to attend would ask me about my writings, but in really interrogative ways – it turned out a lot of them wrongly thought my first person-perspective creative writing was autobiographical. That alone is a good reason to write fantasy or sci fi – at least no one actually thinks I was abducted by aliens or herding unicorns. πŸ˜›

        Liked by 1 person

      2. And if they did think that, that could result in quite an interesting situation. πŸ˜€
        That is the problem with first person though. I’ve wondered on a couple of things I’ve read. But I would never assume.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. When I first read this, I was like what?!?!?!? πŸ™‚ So nice to meet you Victoria. That is a beautiful name, but I always liked Phoenix Grey. I wondered if it was a pen name, or if you just had some really cool parents who were awesome at naming their children. I think pen names are fine, and I plan to use one in the future and have been thinking about this a lot lately actually. I didn’t want to use my married name, and my maiden name is too Polish and hard to pronounce. So I settled on a combination of my first, middle and Confirmation name (which is given to you as part of being Catholic, which I’m really not any more). But who knows, by the time I decide to actually sit down and write, it might change, lol. Plus being a mom, there are genre’s I’d like to give a go that wouldn’t be something I share with my kids. πŸ˜‰ I don’t think it’s so much as being dishonest, it’s using a name that we are comfortable with to put our writing out there. BTW… It doesn’t matter what name you choose to use, your writing talent will carry any name!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pen names are useful for that sort of thing. I think it’s good sometimes to keep certain parts of our life separate.
      Thank you. πŸ™‚ I really wasn’t sure how people would take the fact that I’ve been using a pen name. And I did wonder if it was too strange to be taken seriously, but I think it fits with what I write. Kind of.
      I’ve heard a few writers say they have done what you have for a pen name. Used some variation on their name. I think it’s a sensible idea.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll still be using Phoenix Grey, so you can still call me that. That’s my online name, and that’s how it’s staying.
      Thank you πŸ™‚ It just kind of came to me. I don’t know where from!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pen names are wonderful and have been widely accepted for years. Mark Twain himself used a pen name (news flash: Mark Twain is not his real name). I commend you for coming out about using a pen name online. People use them for all sorts of reasons, and much like yourself, they use them to keep their private thoughts from their personal world while still being able to receive feedback from the public world. Life gets complicated sometimes.

    I don’t think you should feel guilty or ashamed about using a pen name. As long as I have known you, you have not portrayed yourself as anything other than a fiction writer and a friend. And those are the only important truths anyway, right? πŸ˜‰ There’s no shame in your game, dear.

    Good luck in your endeavors!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. πŸ™‚ These are good words and good reassurance. I think you’ve summed it all up quite nicely.
      Online, all I really want to be is fiction writer, so a pen name seemed like a good option. But I do feel much better having everyone know. πŸ™‚
      And I didn’t know Mark Twain was a pen name. Colour me embarrassed!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s smart the way you’re doing it, because that way you can build a solid audience. They even recommend that bloggers have a different blog for each topic they want to cover. I have a writing-help blog and then I have a baking blog. =]

        Haha I had to write a report about him in school. His real name was Samuel or Simon something. Can’t remember!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I think there’s nothing wrong with pen names. Some writers feel comfortable using their own names, and others don’t. And since you’re interested in pursuing nonfiction and journalism along with creative writing, using a pen name for one entity (or different pen names for both) can help you keep both “realms” separate. It’s one of the reasons why J.K. Rowling goes by Robert Galbraith for her mystery novels.

    So, no, I don’t mind you using a pen name at all. And judging from everyone else’s comments, no one else minds, either. πŸ˜‰ Just keep on being you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment. It does seem that most people are in the same mind, which I’m relieved about. πŸ™‚
      I did think about JK Rowling, though, does some of the powr of using a pe name become diminished when the true identity is revealed? I know she wasn’t happy when it happened, but has it changed anything?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s hard to say in J.K. Rowling’s case. The only change I’ve noticed is that the books sell more now than they had before the pen name’s true identity was revealed.

        Also, I forgot to say this last time, but I’ve always liked your pen name. It’s very pretty. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you. It just kind of came to me. πŸ™‚
        I suppose the books selling more was always going to happen with a famous name like hers. But it is a question that won’t leave my mind.

        Liked by 1 person

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