A Pen by Any Other Name

Coming out of the writerly closet one pseudonym at a time

A Pen by Any Other Name

I’m one of those crazy people who has three Facebook accounts. Three. I have my family/friends page, my mystery-writer page, and now my LGBTQ+ romance writer page. It’s a lot of work to maintain those pages, and I’ve sometimes wondered whether I should have combined two of my identities so I wouldn’t create more work for myself.

I do have reasons for the separation, though.

For one, I don’t assume that my family and real-life friends would have any interest in what I write. I know a lot of writers who get hurt when their parents or siblings or friends refuse to read their work. I’m not sure why they would expect them to do so. I mean, my husband doesn’t expect his friends to read one of his white papers on IT governance, so why would I assume my family and friends would — or should — have any interest in what I write?

Bombarding family and friends with my writerly news could get very old very fast. Like a new parent who posts a gazillion pics of their precious newborn (hey, I did it when my kids were little, so I get it.). I have works getting accepted all the time, new releases, blog posts, reviews, readings, et cetera.

I could make my newsfeed about nothing else and post almost every day. However, I don’t want my family and friends to block me. I like having them in my life. If they’re interested in my work, I let them know they can request to join my other pages. And then they’ll get all the writerly news their little hearts desire.

My birth name I use for family and non-reader friends. I’ve also used it in the past for my academic pursuits. I love anthropology and working in development, but neither field is known for its open-minded attitude toward writing fiction. Even as a side gig. Having pen names make sure that a Google search won’t clump together my work on policing and vigilantism in Tanzania with, say, my cobra-shifter romance, or my homemaker-assassin caper.

From there, I then use pen names to separate identities and readers.

So, I created Meg Opperman as my mystery-writing persona. It’s not a well-disguised choice or anything. It would be easy to link my real-life and my mystery-writing name (Hint: it’s my husband’s last name). I’m not hiding it, though I don’t scream the difference from the rooftops, either.

You may be thinking, why two writer pen names and two writer Facebook accounts and two websites? I’ll admit, it’s a pain. It takes up more time and energy that I’d rather spend writing. But my mystery readers are (mostly) different from my LGBTQ+ romance readers. I still like to throw in dead bodies — I mean, who doesn’t? — and some humor into my romances, but I also write explicit sex scenes between men that might not be the cup of tea my mystery readers desire.

And while many romance readers like a bit of mystery in their stories, the romance needs to take center stage. Even in the mystery pieces where there’s a hint of romance, it’s probably not enough to satisfy that set of readers.

So, I created Meghan Maslow. Extra credit for anyone who thought, Oh, I bet she chose that last name because of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Anyone? Bueller? No?

You might notice that I use Meg/Meghan as my pen name in each case. It’s because my real name is Megan and I’m frankly too lazy to answer to another name. I can see it now: I’d go to a conference or book signing and someone would call, “Linda! Oh, Linda,” and I’d walk on by and then they’d think I was snubbing them. Not a winning strategy. Thus, my pen names use my real first name and a different last one. Sneaky, right?

No one will ever know…except when they do.

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