One thing you should know about me is, I’m pretty compulsive. As in, I sort my M&Ms by color and then eat them two at a time. Woe betide if I have an odd number. THAT kind of compulsive. So it should come as no surprise to you that when I say I’ve read a book cover to cover, I mean I’ve literally read it cover to cover. Including the title page, dedication, author’s notes and those odd end-notes that describe the font.
Recently, I was reading a YA paranormal and I noticed that the name on the copyright credit was different from the name on the cover. And it got me thinking about what the author’s reasons might be for using a nom de plume: her whys and wherefores and motivations.
Because we all know that Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, sc. ii)
I have been asked this question myself: would I use another name once I published? I have always said “absolutely not!” After struggling for so long and working so hard, I’ll be damned if I can’t shout from the highest mountains here in Colorado that I finally made it. But now I’m examining the question from a business perspective and I’m not so sure.
My last name gets mispronounced and misspelled all the time. We get mail addressed to the “Fantails” family or, worse, “Fartalis.” People say my name with the emphasis on the first syllable (FAN-ta-lis) and not on the second where it belongs (fan-TAL-is). A nice simple name like Brown or Simons would be so much easier for everyone. I could adopt my paternal grandmother’s maiden name — Craig — with its charming hint of the Scottish highlands.
The YA book I was reading had a nicely chosen name on the cover. I would never have guessed that it was a pen name. It was no “Jane Smith” but it wasn’t “Roxanna Belvedere” either. It was a name that a real person could have had; it was easily pronounced and easily remembered.
The name on the copyright page was also a fine name, but it had one notable difference: the first name clearly identified the author as someone who had been born somewhere between 1960 and 1970. Maybe as late as 1975, but definitely not the 80s or 90s.
In other words, she was in her 40s or late 30s. Writing for the teen market.
And I thought, “Maybe she was worried that kids wouldn’t read a book written by someone like their mother.”
And then I thought, “Maybe I should be thinking about that.”
My first name, Maryanne, was at its peak of popularity in the 1940s and has been declining in popularity ever since. In the 1960s it was still a fairly common name, if you can call about 400 babies per million common (this includes both the Maryann and Maryanne spellings; it does not include the two name combo Mary Ann). This would be comparable to naming your baby Marissa today.
By 1980, there were fewer than 100 babies per million named Maryann and none named Maryanne; in the 1990s, the name fell off the charts completely.
Regardless, Maryanne is an old name. It goes without saying that Maryanne Fantalis is definitely NOT in her 20s. She’s probably not even in her 30s.
She’s, like, your mom’s age. And you can’t pronounce her last name.
Maybe a good first name choice for a YA author would be Emily, which was ranked third in the 90s and was completely UNpopular in the 60s. Or Sarah, always one of my favorite names, ranked fifth in the 90s and only 90 in the 60s.
Or Laura, my dad’s choice for my name, which was ranked 49 in the 90s. Not too popular, not too common.
Laura Craig it is.