Pensive About Pen Names

I've been thinking quite a bit about pen names lately. This came about because an author friend who is starting out in the erotic romance genre asked me about using a nom de plume. Should she write under her own name? she wanted to know. Or should she take on another identity--a secret identity--to sell her books?
That's a tough question.
I basically told her it was up to her, but gave her some of my insights from using pen names for going on over two decades now. There are good reasons to use them and good reasons to not, and it's a hard choice either way. I think anyone who's ever written as someone else, including most of my fellow blogmates, can attest to that.
I actually write under more than one pen name. I've got about five, to be exact. I initially chose a pen name for protection, as writing erotica or even less graphic romance tends to be a bit controversial around the water cooler and can also attract the attention of some individuals who choose to view it in the least respectable terms for whatever reason. I added other pen names for the different genres I write, to help keep my readers from, for example, buying a book they thought was a romance when it was really a horror. It's been helpful in that respect and a good idea.
However, it can be a real pain in the rear. Trying to maintain different pen names in a world tied to social networking is nearly impossible and can be very taxing. I've had to limit my activity to focus on just a couple of identities because there wouldn't be enough hours in the day to interact that much, and it wouldn't be fair to people who read my books.
Also, lately I've just really wanted to write something--anything--under my own name. I blame my mid-life crisis that I've been going through for the last fifteen years (What? So I started a little It gets really hard sometimes to be someone else and not be able to share your work as yourself. I see other writers at conferences happily chatting away about their books, but, depending on the conference, I might be hiding behind a ficus plant instead of promoting my novel so that I don't incur the wrath of those who don't understand exactly how exciting one little feather can be. Heh heh heh...
I don't know what my friend will decide to do, but I hope our conversation will help her decide which path to take. I hope it helps you, too, if you're a budding author who is kicking around writing under a different name.
Any writers out there who'd like to share their own pen name insights, please do comment. I'd love to know what you think!


Mary Ellen Quigley said...

I don't use a pen name, but I definitely would if I wrote different genres. Right now I only write romance, so there is no reason. I think pen names are good for people who want to keep their writing life private or for those trying to reach difference audiences (writing several genres). I would make sure that you don't have too many because that could be very tiring to keep up with.

Natasha Moore said...

I took a pen name to distance myself from the day job.

If I were to write another genre I might take another (or use my real name) but I'd hate to have to juggle several.