I know we've touched upon this at various points over the years, but I don't think we've ever had a whole thread devoted to it. I've been trawling through author and literary agent websites recently and have come across some great ones, so this seemed like a good time to start a thread to compile them.
I find author names particularly interesting because they're as much a brand as a personal identity--many authors publish under their own names, but many also choose pen names that may better reflect the brand they're trying to project, and the image varies by literary genre. My particular area of interest is fantasy fiction, so most of this first batch represents that genre, but I am interested to hear other people's observations in other genres as well!
So, interesting specimens I've come across:
China Miéville - I am super slow on the uptake here, but I just learned recently that A) China Miéville is a man, and a very masculine one in appearance, too, and B) it's his real name. I haven't read any of his books yet, only come across his name in passing, but I confess I would have guessed without hesitation that it was a women's pen name. But nope--Wikipedia tells me his full birth name is China Tom Miéville, and his parents chose his name from a dictionary because they wanted a "beautiful" name. I think this is especially fascinating given our recent discussion about how parents open to masculine names on girls should also be open to feminine names on boys. I admit that China is normally very far from my tastes for a variety of reasons, but in this case I kind of love it. Also, China Miéville has a PhD from the London School of Economics, so that's pretty cool.
Robin Hobb - This really is a pen name, and I think I've mentioned before that I think it's an amazingly astute choice for a fantasy writer. It's simple, distinctive, easy to remember, and sounds like it could be the name of a character in a fantasy novel without being over-the-top fantastical. It's also androgynous enough (and she writes characters of both sexes convincingly enough) that many men seem unaware that she is a woman writer. I've read interviews with her saying that she chose an androgynous pen name deliberately because the point of view character in the first Robin Hobb novel was male, and that she picked a surname starting with H because that was the letter at eye level on most bookstore shelves.
Lemony Snicket - Perhaps the natural progression of a pen name that fits into the genre. I haven't actually read the books, so maybe someone who has can comment, but I understand that the author actually spun Lemony Snicket out into a whole persona with an elaborate backstory and a presence as a character in his novels.
J.K. Rowling - Everyone knows this story by now, but just to catalogue it, Rowling's publishers asked her to publish under gender-neutral initials rather than Joanne Rowling to better market her books to boys. She didn't have a middle name, so she picked K for Kathleen, her grandmother's name. Also of interest: Rowling's chosen pen name for the publication of The Cuckoo's Calling, Robert Galbraith. Everything about that name is totally masculine, staid, traditional. I have to say, it makes me wonder what the critical reception of the novel would have been if it had been published under an obviously feminine pen name, knowing the gender bias in literary criticism. But since the point of Rowling's experiment was presumably to prove that her writing could stand on its own merit, adding the extra variable of sexism probably would have been counterproductive.
Guy Gavriel Kay - Another great name for a fantasy writer. As far as I know it is his real name, but the inclusion of Gavriel really makes it what it is--that v makes it slightly exotic to the English ear, plus the Tolkienesque angelic ending -iel. Guy Kay is totally unexceptional, but Guy Gavriel Kay has incredible presence.
Naomi Novik - Another real name. This one sounds more like an ordinary person, but the alliteration gives it that nice superhero kick. I also have to add, from reading a book jacket, that Naomi Novik named her daughter Evidence. I think that is all sorts of awesome, and should probably also be added to our long compendium of science-y names from awhile back.
N.K. Jemisin - more gender-neutral initials on a woman writer (her name is Nora), but I think her surname is super cool.
J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, of course, probably set the standard for the use of initials by fantasy authors. Also note the recurrence of the double R in George R.R. Martin--I've often wondered if he used the initials as a deliberate reference, though of course it's his real name, too.
Rosamund Hodge - I haven't read any of her work yet and don't know much about her, but isn't the name beautiful? It also reminds me very much of Robin Hobb, but obviously feminine.
Lucienne Diver - Same as above. She's also an agent, so I believe this is her real name--I think it's lovely.
And not an author, but at the same agency as Lucienne Diver is an agent named Nephele Tempest. Amazing. (The Anglicized classical pronunciation, for those curious, would be NEFF-uh-lee--it's the name of a nymph in Greek mythology).
Anyone else have any interesting specimens to add to the collection? Romance, crime, literary fiction?
Wed, 03/30/2016 - 10:54pm