Anonymity for Authors – Are Pseudonyms Necessary or Attainable?

Are Pseudonyms Necessary or Attainable? There’s no short or easy answer but it boils down to two choices.

Pseudonym’s may have become an accepted part of literature and the arts, from the likes of respected authors such as Mark Twain (real name Samuel Longhorn Clemens) and Stephen King (real name Richard Bachman) to modern day music moguls and actors such as Lady Gaga (real name Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) and Kirk Douglas (real name Issur Danielovitch Demsky) yet a lot of questions still linger around the seemingly strange decision to change your name.

When referred to as a ‘stage name’ it’s easy to assume that some names are created purely for commercial intentions, either because the artist’s birth name is difficult to pronounce or a new alliterative and carefully constructed name is easier to market and recall. I know that I never forget the names Whoopi Goldberg (real name Caryn Elaine Johnson)or Agatha Christie (real name Mary Westmacott) but what if an author wants more than just a memorable name of which to write under? What if an author wants to use a name for true anonymity? Is it really possible?

Historically books have been written anonymously or under assumed identities when controversial, put simply, for the authors safety, but in recent times when freedom of speech and expression are so valued, do authors still need the protection? Unless you’re writing about your evil plans to end humanity, even then you’d probably just be considered insane and dismissed in the minds of most rational thinking people, unless massively offensive you probably don’t need to be covert to such an extent. Proven in the fact that many authors although use a pen name are more than happy to print a picture of themselves on their work; but what about those who do want to remain anonymous?

The media has brought with it a culture of celebrity and a sense of public possession over the identities and lives of acclaimed authors and stars alike and so I can’t help but wonder if name-less-ness is nothing more than a dream. Add defamation lawsuits into the mix and it’s no surprise that many authors decide to change names and places in their works too, but then are we rewriting history if we’re changing all names, descriptions and accounts of events? Where do we draw the line between sensitivity for privacy and the moral implications of changing details in so-called ‘non-fiction’?

As an author myself I enjoy the freedom that comes with not using my real name, knowing that you can’t type the name I use daily into google and find my most personal thoughts and secrets allows my work to be more honest and that can only be a good thing-right? I’m not famous by a very long stretch and while I don’t necessarily think I ever will be, there’s always the ‘what if’ fantasy that comes to mind when I consider the possibility. If I did become well known, would the simple change of name that internet submissions permit be enough? I feel safe now in the knowledge that I can be an author online and still have my own life outside of that but could it really last if people actually looked a little deeper?

When asked what people want to achieve in their lifetimes, I think many of us would like to leave a legacy behind as an ‘X was here’ stamp on the world, people would like to be remembered and missed. The question then posed is if we decide to remain anonymous, are we really remembered; is our work being remembered enough? I think of writers such as J.K Rowling, famous for using multiple pseudonyms, who will always be synonymous with the Harry Potter books and what an amazing honour that must be but then remember that her personal life will always be public domain, and it doesn’t seem as glamorous. I wonder if she’d remained anonymous, would her mark on the world have been as satisfying for her? We all enjoy a pat on the back for a job well done and as a writer this should be enough, I wonder if leaving the mark ‘Harry Potter Author was here’ would have been enough.

Some of us write so personally that we couldn’t stand the thought of our faces becoming recognisable to the world, those authors are which are biographical but want to keep our lives liveable day to day. For some it goes further than a change of name and for them anonymity is desired. Look at musician Sia, she wears huge wigs and gasses to conceal her identity because she wants her work to stand alone, she wants her life to be liveable, but if you did some basic searches online, you’d find hundreds if not thousands of images and details of the real her. Granted she probably doesn’t go to the length she probably could do to conceal her identity, she occasionally goes to smaller awards ceremonies a herself, but even if she didn’t, public desire to unveil the mystery of someone that people feel a possession over drives the media to hunt her down and get those photo’s and details that are oh-so-profitable.

As children we played dress-up, pretended to be others and assumed different identities for fun but when did an innocent game of dress-up turn into an MI5 cover-up operation? When do we have to make the decision between having a successful writing career or maintaining a life that’s just ours but being unfulfilled? For some, they simply cannot choose hence the need for; pen names, stage names, pseudonyms and pictures of others on the sleeves of their books, then though you must wonder if choosing this middle alternative is really a good substitute for a fulfilling writing career. Is it even possible?

There’s no short or easy answer but it boils down to two choices;

First choice: shoot for the stars, knowing that if you do reach them the whole world will likely have all eyes on you both when you reach them and when you return to earth.

Second choice: remain small scale, accept that your mark on the world may be lessened as the price for privacy but still gaze up at the night sky every so often in your own peaceful back garden in suburbia.

For me personally, I have a thing for star gazing on a calm night, but for others, the pull of the bright twinkling lights proves too strong and while some will embark on the most amazing adventure of their lives, too many will be burnt by what is in reality a hazardous mass of flames.

This post is contributed as Guest post by Renee Bailey

Should heroes be role-models?

Whether they do, you will have to read the book to see but some things will not be resolved until the sequel. Real life is often like that.

What do you expect?

Some people expect a lot from fictional heroes.  Of course, some people expect a lot from their real-life heroes too. They are usually disappointed.  Real people, even the ones who are rightly admired, all have their faults.  I am often amazed when I hear of people being shocked to discover that Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Richard the Lionheart and even Mother Theresa had their unpleasant attributes.  They all made mistakes too.  Does any of that prevent us remembering them with admiration or affection? I say it does not.  It means they were real.  They remain heroes.

What of fictional heroes?

Some authors do create heroes who appear to be morally faultless.  They also create them with amazing abilities in almost every respect.  Strong, clever, athletic, tough, resilient, quickthinking and good at just about everything they are called upon to do.  I have noticed that TV and film adaptations are often to blame for ‘improving’ heroes.  James Bond seems more human in the books.  So does Richard Sharpe.

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What about the Bible?

Jesus is the ultimate role-model for Christians.  Apart from him, all the characters in the Bible are shown as people with shortcomings, in some cases serious ones.  Even the best of them.  We should read warnings in the stories as well as seeing things to copy.

What of my characters?

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I try to make all my characters as credible as possible, which means they are not perfect, but I hope you will find them likeable.  Apart from the villains.  But even they need to have some good qualities if they are to be realistic.  Besides, if the villain was all-bad, you would be able to tell right from the start.  Not much mystery or suspense there.

Billy and Bethan are hardly role-models.  Robbing coaches is not a thing I commend as a career.  They both fall short of the ideal when it comes to their sexual morality too.  I hope, however, that you will be able to identify with them, at least to some extent, and see the good in them, while hoping they will find a way out of the lifestyle they have fallen into.  Whether they do, you will have to read the book to see but some things will not be resolved until the sequel.  Real life is often like that.

How to write a (fantasy) novel

Few tips and hints for novice writers

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.  (Anne Lamott)

The above quote is quite true, the beginning is absolutely terrible. First line is the hardest, because you’ll try to impress your readers with a monumental phrase, which – absolutely – must remain imprinted in reader’s mind and soul, forever.

Nonsense! First line will always be, if not catastrophic, “at least” lamentable. You will change it – for sure – at least twice. Trust me! Then you’ll have to finish the first page. You managed it in the end? Congratulations! You have taken the first step toward immortality: you are about to become a writer.

What satisfaction you’ll have when you’ll go on the second page: “Wow! I wrote the first one!” You will feel like those guys who go to the gym and draw a heavy dumbbell twice, then looked around for approving glances: “Huh? Am I strong, or what?” From now on, however, it’s easier. You know how it is: it’s hard to do your first million, the rest will come by itself (well, maybe … I do not know … but I heard from others that that’s so it works). From now on the gaps will begin to fill: the characters outlines, the plot, the features, the emotions…

You will start to create images for the reader, images that will help you penetrate his mind, creating that “state of well” that he/she has been waiting all day long.

You don’t need to write down simple phrases, but true “verbal paintings”. OK, let me explain for the uninitiated. Let us assume that, in chapter three, I would have used a “flat” description: Robert came into the room and saw a bed, a cupboard and a table full of fruit.

This description will awaken any emotion in you? I’m sure not. It would have been a description like in a “crime scene report”. Instead, you will find the passage in the book describe things quite differently:

As soon as he went in, Robert noticed with amazement the huge canopied bed which dominated the entire room. He then saw the wardrobe, the table and chairs, all drenched in the sunlight that flew into the room through a wide window.

Clean, fresh air, scented with jasmine and mint could be felt through the room, inviting him to rest. On the table there stood a bowl of fresh fruit which delighted the senses: red apples from the Kingdom of Clouds, big and juicy grapes hand-picked from the hills of Akros, oranges ripened by the warm sun in the Kingdom of Water and all sort of other kinds of fruit that Robert had never seen before.

Something else, right? Have I transposed you into the room, next to Robert? Already salivating, thinking about the grapes from Akros? Images, images, images … use the details, creating to the readers the feeling of being there, into the story, sitting at the table with the hero, fighting shoulder to shoulder, suffering with him, laughing together…

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.  (E.L. Doctorow)

At one point It will happen to have an ethical issue: can I use elements from other books? I admit, I had the same problem, somewhere around page twenty. I found the answer in an article on Bloomsbury Publishing web page, “guilty” of publishing the Harry Potter series: “Renowned writers’ tips for novice writers.” A writer (I apologize, because I don’t remember her name) said that (I quote from memory) it’s OK to use elements from other sources – books, movies – as long as you create your own story because after all the books written throughout history it is very difficult to conceive something new. She was right. I thought that all the stories (ancient or modern) have dragons, elves, wizards, animals that can talk, heroes who can handle fire or water, magic realms or giants, as in detective stories, you can find thieves, criminals, cops, detectives…

Having solved this problem, I found myself before another challenge: finding suitable names for places and characters. Whenever I thought of a fancy name I was looking on the internet to check if someone else has used that name. You’ll be amazed: every word you invent, you will find it on the internet. Because another madman already thought to it, or because it means something in another language, or because they are actual places or persons, about whose existence you had no clue. Believe me, after a while you will abandon the research and you’ll try to create strange names, without check them anymore, hoping that nobody had ever thought about them.

When – finally – you’ll get rid from all these anxieties, the story will start to flow and you will end up on page one hundred (how happy I was then), then two hundred, three hundred… depends only on the imagination that you have and the talent to “split hairs in four”.

Finally you will lay out the last word of the book, as the artist puts his last stroke on the canvas. You will smile and you’ll feel a huge satisfaction. Is that unique moment, when you’ll reach the Everest of self-gratification and you’ll find it worthwhile, because – isn’t it? – all good things have an end.

Even if you’ll not succeed to publish, my advice is to not give up writing, because You fail only if you stop writing. (Ray Bradbury)

Good luck!

This post is contributed as Guest post by I.B. George.

If you want to chat more about this or something else visit: Authors Goodreads

At First Glance: How the right cover can sell your book

If you have good prose and the right cover to match the genre, and finally, it melds with a good description or back matter—then you got me hooked.

I read as much as I write, even more, but like many other avid readers, I’m picky about what I choose to read. Because I’m an indie author, supporting other indie authors is important to me. Still, the process of whom to read can be difficult. Of course, there are the obvious choices: award-winning indie novels, or the best-selling indie books, however, I don’t always choose the well-worn path. In particular, I like to give new authors a try. Sometimes the choice I make can end up being a bad one, but more often than not, it pays off. How do I choose? It all starts with the cover.

When searching for a new book to sink my teeth in, I choose a genre that interests me, as we all do. After the genre, it’s the cover that nearly always seals the deal for me. Why? Because we are visual beings. Have you ever been scrolling past a post on facebook, or a pin on Pinterest and have to stop and check it out? Absolutely! Why? Because “90 percent of information that’s transmitted to the brain is visual” It’s no wonder that those who choose to create the most vibrant and alluring book covers get the most traffic.

I can give you an example. It’s not a secret that vampire fantasy is one of my favorite types of books. That being said, two years ago, I passed one by because the cover was less than appealing. This year, I came upon that same book (now a series) with a new dynamic cover, and I ordered it. My decision to get the book was mostly due to its new cover, and the fact that it was now free. It was a great book, but had the cover been up to par two years ago, I’d have gotten it then.

Writers can often spend years writing their masterpiece only to choose a cover that inadequately displays their work. Not to mention, the description; it’s the next thing to pull a reader in. It’s important to be as picky with the cover as you are with the content. If you have good prose and the right cover to match the genre, and finally, it melds with a good description or back matter—then you got me hooked.

If you’re going to write a book, give it a chance to sell. Get it professionally designed. Our eyes will thank you!

Credits/quotes: Humans Process Visual Data Better, www.t-sciences.com

All opinions are my own. Brenda Hickey (Contributed as Guest Post)

Evenstar and Other “Gone With the… Writing” Stars

No matter how bright your star will shine, stay humble. That’s rule #1 if you wanna embrace success.

Few days ago I went for a coffee with an old friend of mine and while I was listening, not only what she was saying, but also what others around us in the coffeeshop where saying, I couldn’t help myself but wonder… How many different kinds of characters exist out there?

Some are optimists, some others are pessimists pretty much from inside the womb. Some people wanna make a scene, everywhere they go, while some others want to slip through without being noticed. Some are caring and passionate, while others have hearts as cold as ice. Some are kind, but some others are rude. Some are stars… Some others are like Evenstar!

Ready to sacrifice what they were given, what was their birthright, just to be with the person they love. Like Arwen Undómiel, from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”. She had the gift of immortality and she chose to abandon that to live a mortal life. Well actually she chose to live the extended version of it. The point is that she chose love over eternal life. Love over gifts and birthrights. Love over everything else.

This world is in desperate need of bigger amounts of love. All of us focus on less important and more stressing things and we forget those little things that make our lives seem big and precious. Nowadays, we all live to work, while it should be the other way around; work to have the basic things we need to survive.

Our star won’t shine brighter if we work 13 hours every single day. Our star will shine brighter if we know where our limits are and we spend some time with the people we love and care about; because by doing that we’ll be able to work harder the next day and the day after that. Because at the end of the day, the people we love and care about will stand by us, not our career.

However, I came across many wonderful people lately who seem truly passionate about “NaNoWriMo” and they are basically trying to build their writing career out of it. Now, for those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month” and it basically challenges you to write a novel of 50k words in a month! That’s right! Fifty freaking thousand words in a month.

Don’t get me wrong, I love writing. And I do it with much more enthusiasm than I did in the past. But, first of all, I write as much as I want, without having to hit a goal. Second of all, I have so many drafts I’m editing and making changes on, that it’s not that hard to update the blog every day. And third, when you NEED to write and you don’t do it just because you ADORE it, that passion seems like it’s fainting. And then you get nervous and the words don’t come out on the paper (or actually on your computer screen) as easy as they did in the past. And it’s impossible for you to…

Some people may be able to do it and I admire them for that. But I can’t. And I’m brave enough to admit it. There are days that I don’t even have time to pee, let alone write. I had even started writing on my iPhone while I was in the bathroom, while I was going to my Spanish lesson, when I was going for a walk, even in my sleep sometimes, just to manage to finish a single prompt every week! Literally man! I was opening one eye and I was typing what had popped up inside my mind. Not so fun…

Writing, creating characters, stories, settings… That is supposed to be FUN! I won’t, under any circumstances, forget why I first started writing. If I manage some day to sell what I have written so far and get paid for my ideas… Well, that’s a completely different chapter.

For the time being, I have my job, which I love, and I write because I love that, too. And so does Katrin Hollister, who was courageous enough to participate in that contest, with an amazing story I try to read every single day. You can check this new fantastic and adventurous story by following that link. I’m sure you’ll like it!

There comes a time when we all sort out our priorities. It may take years, but eventually we all do. I’m not saying that you don’t have to work hard and build a career, but it’s equally, or even more important to build healthy relationships with the people you care about and love. Thankfully, if you’re trying to build a career as a writer, you’ll have to build healthy relationships with the people around you, too, because they will be your inspiration for the stories you want to tell to the world!

And no matter how bright your star will shine, stay humble. That’s rule #1 if you wanna embrace success.

Na lû e-govaned vîn everyone!

© Victoria Moschou. All Rights Reserved 2016.