Friday, January 29, 2016

On Pen Names

Now Playing: David Bowie - Little Wonder

I keep mentioning Jenny Trout because I always find her blog posts thought provoking, entertaining, informative. All kinds of positives.

But something she wrote about a little while ago has been troubling me. And it's troubling me for a completely asinine reason. Seriously! Her post on why she changed her name is really emotional and thoughtful and an intricate look at her mental illness and issues of identity.

Mine is going to be utterly shallow in comparison. You've been warned.

The real reason I'm writing this is because I had a brief conversation with Ren and Silvia about it and they both kinda gave me quizzical stares and, "uh, no," answers.

We went to a karaoke bar a few weeks ago, which is where the conversation happened. (Note: and I'm thinking we need to track down more Miami karaoke bars. At least until we find one populated by young people. And just to make it Our Thing. Like finding good burger restaurants or watching really bad film adaptations of books we've read--those are all part of The Lesbian Triad™ agenda.)

While we were waiting for a waitress to notice us, I asked them. "Do you think having the same name as a Brazilian gymnast will bring me problems down the line if I publish something?"

And they were like, "????" and "No. . . ."

The "no" was actually decisive. The question-marks-and-frowning seemed to stem from a Why The Hell Would You Even Worry About That angle.

But you know me. I worry. I panic. I am not made up of organs and tissue and bones, I am made up of panicked thoughts, weird social anxiety worries, and occasional doomsday scenario plans.

I feel, I don't know, that even though me and Other!R.A. are not remotely in the same career universe, we could cross worlds. What if she publishes an autobiography or something? What if people who browse for books and like gymnastics come across my book and do a double take and think, "huh. She does gymnastics and writes urban fantasy?"

Plus, she's only like four years younger than me and already has her own Wikipedia page. She might end up going all the way to the Olympics. I am so slow at making a name for myself.

Yes. I realize this sounds overtly paranoid and envious.

And that's only because I am overtly paranoid and partially envious. (I'm envious of anyone below the age of nineteen who's got their life figured out. Like you, Lorde. Ahhh).

I quite like my name. I even figured out what my author signature would be if I ever get to a point where I can sign books, since it's recommended you don't use your legal signature for such things. I like my name so much I've been, since childhood, against the idea of changing it for any reason. Marriage, legal troubles, anything of the sort.

If it became a problem (big if), I could just go initials. R.V. Andrade. Or, quite simply, Rebeca V. Andrade. Doesn't sound too bad.

But I was thinking. . .if I did have to use a pen name, what would it be? I have a hard enough time picking names for my fictional characters, renaming myself could have been an eternal struggle. And I thought I'd be completely against the idea until I realized there is a name out there that triggers this weird sense of nostalgia and fondness within me, unrivaled by anything else.

I hadn't realized how important it was to me until a few months ago, when I heard it in passing and had this strange, joyous reaction to it. It was the name of a friend's niece, but it was also a name I picked out, long ago, for the most important character I've ever created. The character who ages with me and will never exist in any printed work.

Now technically, it's a name she rejected. Her birthname. She didn't reject it out of principle or anything; she picked "Dream" as her new name long before she knew what her parents had called her at birth, and no one refers to her by her original name. But I picked her first and last names for a very specific reason, both as namesakes of two different people. It's perfect because it's not particularly unique or strange. I think only two or three people would recognize why it was so significant to me, and that's on the off-chance they'd even read my books. (Maybe Cecilia would. Like, if I tweet about it. If Twitter still exists prominently in a few years and/or she still follows me).

It also wouldn't be a secret. I figured since it'd probably be a touch easy to trace it back to me, I wouldn't go above and beyond to hide it. But now I'm excited for it.

I can't help but think it'd be strange, though. Since it was Dream's birthname, it doesn't feel like it truly belongs to me. It doesn't even belong to her anymore. It wouldn't be a "persona" of me or a representation of a version of me or anything. Yet I can't imagine using anything else.

I kind of hope I never have to use it. But I can't say I wouldn't be slightly excited if it ever became necessary.

I wonder how other writers choose pen names?


  1. Anonymous12:18 PM

    Don't quote me on this, but I think it's supposed to be Lesbian Triad with the little copyright sign? @_@

    1. Well I thought we'd sell Lesbian Triad t-shirts and coloring books @_@ Hence the trademark. But I suppose copyright is warranted too? IDK, I'm reading up on it. Research~


"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.