Many writers use an alias or nom de plume, or in my case also a nom de pinceau. This initially was unintentional. I’ve never liked my real first name and had suggested I publish under different one when I secured a literary agent at the beginning of my writing career. She disagreed, saying there were very few authors with my first name and persuaded me to keep it. I was fine with that.
Some years later I took up painting but begin by not signing my work simply because I didn’t know what to sign as: My full name? My initials? Something else? People began taking an interest in my art leading to a work colleague particularly keen to buy my first bluebell painting. Anxious to see what else I had created, he searched for me on the internet. That was how I discovered there was an American artist with exactly the same name as me and, more to the point, painted in a similar style. One picture he found was indeed so much like one of my own, one could argue I had copied it. Mine was a waterside view in Hampshire, England, entitled “Solent Garden”, hers of a scene either out of her head or somewhere in America. There was only one thing for it. I had to paint using a different name. But what?
I wanted something simple, easy to sign in acrylic and something memorable, something short. I spent hours wondering, then remembered one of the main characters in my first (unpublished and hiding in the bottom draw of my desk) novel. His name was “Kit”, an abbreviation for Christopher, but also for Christine and Katherine. Perfect! (BTW my first name isn’t either of those two, in case you’re wondering.) Now I needed a surname. Looking back I could have used my own, and it would have worked but the title of that story called out to me. It was “Domino”. Voila! There was my new name.
Back to my agent. Despite numerable efforts, she was unable to find a publisher for my book notwithstanding being short-listed and runner up in a major national writing competition, so we parted ways. Undeterred, I published that novel under my new name. It seemed the obvious thing to do; that way I could keep my private and writing/artistic life separate especially where social media is concerned. It stops hackers too, and halts would-be scammers in their tracks. You’d be surprised the number of times I’ve had fake emails from Inland Revenue saying I owe thousands in unpaid taxes or am due for a large rebate, or claiming to be from my bank concerning fraudulent activity on my account — you know the type of thing. The moment I see something like that addressed as my pen-name I know it’s a scam.
Having another name also means I can, as I intend to do at some stage, write about my past, which is a novel in itself and one my agent had wanted to me write as part of offering a 3-book deal to publishers. I wouldn’t be able to do that under my real name as I need to protect people the story affected, including my family.
Having a pseudonym has many advantages so if you are considering using one, go for it. You can always change it!