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Friday, January 15, 2016

Ch-ch-ch choices by Suz deMello

As a writer, I'm constantly confronting choices. Comma or not? Oxford comma or not?

What's the name of my character? I'm picky about names. I've been known to research names for several days before selecting one. Then I may go back and change them, which is difficult--once a character's name becomes entrenched in my head, it's hard to change. But I've already named two supporting characters "Jenna," so no more Jennas, even though it's a name I do like.

And then there's Ben. Dear Ben! I named the hero in my latest story Ben only to discover another Ben lurking in my past--my past writing, that is. So, buh-bye, Ben Number Two. He became Zack.

Those questions don't compare at all to the massive annoyance of pen names.

Initially, I decided to use my true name. Heck, I wanted everyone to know that I had done something so cool--written and sold a book! So my first novel was published as Susan Swift. Here it is:

After my first book signing I massaged my sore hand and decided that had to change. So my next few books were written by Sue Swift--the name is shorter by two letters, which over the course of an hour signing books becomes significant.. Though honestly, I had never thought of myself as a "Sue." But now I am. Or I was.

My first book as Sue Swift.
It's pretty good. Got to the RITA finals and everything.

Then my sweet romance career faltered, and while I was selling a few manuscripts that had been hiding under the bed, I recreated myself as Suz deMello, erotica novelist.

Don't know about the pen name, but that guy is
pretty darn hot!

Why Suz deMello, you ask? Well, Sue Swift is a hasty, stressful sort of name. I wanted to be relaxed. So--Sue the Mellow. Suz deMello. And with the advent of ebooks--no more book signings! Yay!

But I found myself running two pen names in tandem. If you are a writer, you're nodding your head in understanding of the enormous time sink promoting two names is. Two websites. Two blogs. Two Myspace pages (remember Myspace?). Two of every damn thing. (If you're a reader, you probably hadn't thought about it. That's okay. We still love you.)

That palled quickly, but as my sweet and mainstream romance careers had faltered, it didn't really matter. Sue Swift receded into the background as I busily wrote, sold and promoted as Suz deMello.

Then reversions happened, and several of my older books written as Sue Swift came back into my hands. In particular, a cute little secret baby book currently entitled Mac's Secret Father. I'm now revising and updating that book for re-release, and have to decide what name will appear on the cover.
Do I revive Sue Swift? Or do I publish the book as Suz deMello, risking reader confusion?

If you have an opinion--let me know. Really. I also asked this question on my Facebook timeline and got some interesting responses, and I'm interested in yours, too.

So thanks!


Rose Anderson said...

Picking names is almost as much work as writing the entire novel! I use two now to separate my writing/genres -- Rose Anderson (scorchers) and Madeline Archer (sweeter romance, walks in the twilight zone, or something dark). Rose is an award-winning author already established. Madeline has more fun. ;) I didn't want to lose all Rose gained so I linked both names. As far as opinions go, were I you, I'd do both.

Cara Marsi said...

I tend to want to reuse character names. I forget sometimes that I've used a name and use it again until I realize finally I'd already used it. My previous editor was good at keeping track of my character names, better than me. I think you should go with both pen names. Your erotic romance fans might be upset if they read a sweet story by you, thinking it was erotic.

Melissa Keir said...

I agree with the others that if you already were published under that name, you can just republish with it. To do differently would confuse others although I do see some authors who were writing paranormals and did very well...that when their contemporaries are rereleased, they put their bigger well known name with another name under it... Melissa Keir writing as Mel K. Then you can also tag both your names and maybe get some cross buys as long as the book is clearly labeled as a non-erotic.

Paris said...

I've been deliberating the very same question about pen names and will need to make a decision very soon, so your post and all of the opinions so far are very welcome. I like the idea of linking the two names or perhaps using initials for the second name to let readers know what to expect but the idea of keeping up two personas on social media is daunting. I'd rather be writing:)

jean hart stewart said...

I never thought of using a second name, even when I wrote erotica for a while and that might have been a good thing to do. Maybe I would have just confused myself though!

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