Yesterday was my day to blog over at Mad Genius Club and I discussed the Road to Indie. I discussed the thought process in taking Vengeance from Ashes indie instead of submitting it to NRP or another publisher. I talked about the actual process of writing, editing, converting, getting cover art, etc. Then I came to the decision to use a pen name.
I already knew there might be some comments about using a different pen name for VfA. But it was a decision I didn’t make lightly. Since I write several different genres, I wanted to make sure that those who read my urban fantasy or paranormal romance didn’t come to VfA thinking they’d be getting shapeshifters and/or romance. So I talked with some folks I trust and thought and decided that it would be best if the book came out under a new pen name.
Now, what I hadn’t anticipated was the confusion some folks who had been following the snippets would have finding the book — because I had posted it here under my name and hadn’t given them advance notice of the change. Fortunately, that was an easily corrected hurdle.
What I hadn’t expected was someone basically condemning the choice to go with a pen name that could be read as male. It was a conscious decision on my part to do so. The reason is simple — there are still people, male and female, who feel that a woman can’t write military science fiction. Then there are those who have been burned by science fiction that has been been so heavily “messaged” by the SJWs and GHHers that they will shy away from anything in the genre written by a woman. So, I chose a nickname and a family surname and didn’t give it another thought.
The truth of the matter is, my decision has nothing to do with the “fanboys” we read so much about right now. I’ve never been hassled or harried or harassed by a guy in fandom. I know some have, but I also know men how have been harassed — sexually and otherwise — by women in fandom. So, my choice of Sam Schall as a pen name had nothing to do with that.
Nor am I particularly afraid that folks will realize a woman wrote VfA. If I were, I’d have filed a DBA and the copyright page would have Sam Schall on it instead of Amanda S. Green.
It all comes down to this: I’m in the business to make money. So I have to look at factors that will help me make the most money per book. If that means having a pen name for my science fiction that some might feel is a male name, so be it. That pen name keeps the readers from becoming confused about what sort of book they are getting.
Besides, the pen names help me. I know it sounds crazy, but each pen name has a certain feel to it when it comes to writing. Ellie Ferguson, the pen name I use for the paranormal romances and romantic suspense novels, is a bit of a ditz. That really comes out in the romsus books. She listens to foofoo music (if I never hear ABBA and the Mama Mia soundtrack again, it will be too soon) when writing.
When writing under my real name, the music is more techno and the prose more detail oriented because I have to remember police procedure. As Nocturnal Interlude showed, there’s a darker side to what I write. In my mind, at least, there are more layers to the characters and their motivations than there are in Ellie’s.
Sam (which as my childhood nickname was short for Samantha. Don’t ask) is more of a natural extension of me than of Ellie. The detail is there as is the procedure. But the military aspect of the novel and the drive of the characters, especially Ashlyn Shaw, goes beyond even what we see with Mac Santos in the Nocturnal Lives series. There is a dark side to Ash that the reader gets glimpses of in Vengeance from Ashes that will come more to the forefront in the next book. She’s been damaged by what happened to her and her people. Even though she’s fighting through it, determined to do her duty even as she is equally determined to find out why they were betrayed. There is going to come a point when she discovers the truth and how that plays out I’ve not yet determined.
So, yes, I have pen names. They are like hats I put on depending on what my current project happens to be. There’s no magical reason why I chose each name, other than the fact they are all based in my family somehow. I’m not trying to hide the fact I’m female. All I am trying to do is maximize my income. I’m a writer with cats and a dog that like to eat. 😉
I understand the impulse– plus when I finally get my cozy mystery written (still in the early stages) I will look for a pen name because it is very different from my other stuff.
I started using a pseudonym in 1988 when I first got on the internet, I wanted a name I could be comfortable with but at the same time wouldn’t lead back to me. My first foray into writing was screenplays under my own name — and when I gave that up I started to write unabashed erotica. An author friend who had published via a small press was contemptuous — why he had press runs of a couple of thousand copies. At the time I was getting 4500-5000 readers a week, and had been for years. I still wrote under my old pseudonym, and that’s what I publish under now. I publish SF, Mil SF, fantasy, mystery and horror under the same name, No one has ever said anything to me about a woman not being fit to write on a topic (and candidly, other erotica writers tell stories of hostile Christians who take umbrage about their work — I’ve never had anyone criticize me like that — maybe because my stories all have plots :D) So, just the one pseudonym and I hope to stay anonymous even longer than “James Tiptree, Jr.”