What’s In A Name?

What’s In A Name?

VME labeledSo I’m in my brother’s bookstore, and I’m looking for my latest book, and I’m not finding it. Just as I’m thinking oh really? it strikes me that I’m looking for the wrong name.

I’m not sure how much of a secret it is (none for the people who read the bio at the end of my posts) but besides being Violette Malan, I’m also V.M. Escalada. I have to admit that when my agent first suggested I use a penname, my immediate reaction was unfavourable. There are all kinds of reasons for such a suggestion, however, some of which I touched on in a previous post. Today, I’d like to talk about the actual, practical experience.

At first the idea flustered me more than a little – you know writers, we can always see a worst case scenario. I had plenty of questions, and no one – it seemed – to go to for answers. Don’t get me wrong, my agent, and my editor, had plenty of helpful suggestions, just not for these actual, practical, concerns.

Halls for BGMy first concern? What explanation do I give people who know me, personally? After all, people who have never met/heard of Violette Malan, aren’t likely to ask for any. The short answer, by the way, is “it’s a marketing thing.” The long answer we don’t have time for. Buy me a beer sometime at a con and I’ll tell you.

Which brings me to my second concern: Who am I in public? At a con, for example? The easy answer is: I’m whoever was invited. That’s the name that will go first on the con badge. It’s not unusual, at cons, to see people with two names on their badges, the one who was invited, and (in brackets? smaller print?) the other one. If you weren’t invited as a special guest? If you’re just registered as a regular panelist? That’s when it gets tricky. Do you use the established, familiar name first? or the new one?

I haven’t had to answer that one yet, but I’m thinking those marketing people are going to want me to emphasize the name of the author whose book just came out.

But how do I become a second person? What would I use for a photo? A bio? At this point it struck me that I could be having some fun with this. After all, I make people up for a living, don’t I?

SG for BGNot that I can become entirely someone else. Again, people who already know me would have to be able to recognize me. I’m not becoming a different person, I’m becoming a second person. I can’t dress entirely differently because, first, I can’t afford all those new clothes and, second, I’ve already bought the stuff I look good in.  I’m not going for frumpy, no matter what the marketing people say.

But I will need a new autograph, won’t I? At least I know which name to sign, right? The signature has to match the name on the cover, right? That feels right to me, I could easily be in a situation where the person asking for the autograph only knows the author sitting in front of her.

However, it gets more complicated when the person knows both of you. How personal do you make a personalized signature? Do you sign both names? On the same page? Family’s easy. Family doesn’t care how you sign the book as long as you sign it, and they can leave it lying around to impress their friends with – something the Escalada part of my family can now do more easily than before.

I admit, I don’t have an easy answer for that one yet. Maybe you can help me out?

Violette Malan is the author of the Dhulyn and Parno series of sword and sorcery adventures (now available in omnibus editions), as well as the Mirror Lands series of primary world fantasies. As VM Escalada, she writes the Faraman Prophecy series. Book One, Halls of Law, is available now. Find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @VioletteMalan.

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I know authors like Lyda Morehouse have a completely different “Second persona” for their pseudonym. Seanan McGuire is less of a split that way although publishers often want a “Mira” not a “Seanan” book.

Sophie Landon

Two other dual-publishing authors are Megan Lindholm/Robin Hobb and Sarah Monette/Katherine Addison. (There are also Elizabeth Bear and Alma Alexander, who write everything under those names but whose legal names are each something else entirely.)

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