My writer friend Jenny Kane has been musing on her blog lately about being lots of people at once, at least in terms of pen names. She has more aliases than you can shake a stick (of sugar or, indeed a sex toy, depending on which of her works you’re reading!) at, and it’s a source of constant amazement to me that she can manage so many identities so effectively. She has a different name for every different genre that she writes, and her genres span from children’s fiction to erotica, with pleasurable pit stops to romantic and historical fiction in between. And, I believe, her ‘real’ name is something quite different, too :).
This got me thinking; have I got a pen name? Back in the day, when I wrote mainly fanfiction, I used the handle fayzalmoonbeam to hide behind. I still do, on occasion, when the mood takes me to write fanfic, and you can find me on fanfiction.net and Archive of our Own under that name. The adoption of an alias was useful; I didn’t want to put my real name out there in case any of my students googled me and found the gay vampire smut I wrote back in 2004 (it was Lost Boys fanfic, in case anyone’s interested!).* Also, inevitably, with practise, my writing has got better, and I didn’t want to be called out on terrible fic years later.
Adopting a pen name for my more commercially intended writing was a rather easier decision. It came out of two things; once again, the desire to separate my job as a teacher from my job as a writer came into play, but also, I felt as though, after quite a few years of marriage, I wanted to reclaim my maiden name, too! There was something quite nice about being able to take it back in some kind of professional way, even though I really had no qualms about swapping it for my husband’s name when I married. Perhaps it comes from wanting to write just for me; perhaps it comes from wanting to honour the people who encouraged me to write in the first place, although there’s family on both sides, not just Keenans, who did that!
There’s also a more fun reason, I think. Now I’ve been Mrs J for fourteen years, there’s a part of me that wants to be Ms K again, and live out just a little bit of a role. So what are the differences? Well, Ms K has a tidier, better decorated house, for a start! Ms K, as my alter ego, embraces country style minimalism in decor. She is fond of Cath Kidston spots and florals, but will buy the Home Bargains versions if they take her fancy. Ms K has a satchel for her laptop and a Jack Wills laptop case. Ms K likes to write in places other than her own home, when she can. Ms K loves her Pendleton Somerby bike. Ms K meets regularly with other writers and spends riotous evenings talking about real and imaginary people. Ms K, in an ideal world, would be three stone lighter and owns a wardrobe of Boden and Joe Browns dresses. And good shoes.
In a nutshell, Ms K has become the more marketable face of Mrs J; the bits of me I’m happy to show in public, I suppose. Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy with Mrs J’s lot; there’s a lot to be thankful for, but it’s fun to put on an alter ego and be an ‘enhanced’ self. So, if you had to pick an alter ego, what would yours be like?
*Actually, the school folklore, courtesy of a good friend and colleague, has it that I wrote, and I quote, ‘Harry Potter porn’. The word ‘Alacazam!’ has never seemed so funny…