It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.
—J. K. Rowling on using her other pen name Robert Galbraith
It would seem natural for established authors to revel in the fortunes that their famous names yield. Usually, fans always wait with bated breath to lay hands upon the next literary masterpiece penned by their favorite authors. Critics await such book releases with as much enthusiasm, wanting to rip it apart with their watchful analysis. And publishers remain optimistic about the bounty that these famous writers always seem to ensure.
Now, would you really blame a writer if he wishes to escape this high octane drama, and write with free abandon? Is it possible for a writer to separate himself from the expectation that his name carries? It is quite hard indeed, especially when it's all in the name
. Highly resourceful as they are, several prominent writers, for varying reasons choose to go incognito and write under a pseudonym.
Famous Authors and Their Pseudonyms
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson may not ring an immediate bell as Lewis Carroll might, of course. But to Carroll's numerous fans across the globe, he remains a master of word play, clearly evident in his masterpiece, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Stanley Martin Lieber
We have Stanley Martin Lieber to thank whenever we escape to enter the Marvel Universe and witness his greatest collaborated creations - Spider-Man,
the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man
, or even the Fantastic Four
Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski
As a Pole living in England, Joseph Conrad decided it was prudent to pursue his anglicized name to sideline any kind of confusion. As one of the best British authors, Conrad is remembered for his novels, An Outcast of the Islands
, The Secret Agent
, and Almayer's Folly
Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto
Poet and politician Pablo Neruda took his pen name from Czech poet, Jan Neruda. He was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Known for his surreal poetry, his collection of erotic poems, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair
is well remembered.
Voltaire was a free thinker and a prolific writer, churning out around 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets through his lifetime. His nom de plume
is actually an anagram of Arovet Li
, the Latinized spelling of his surname, Arouet, and the initial letters of le jeune
, meaning 'young'. He is also known to have used more than a hundred pen names to accredit his work.
Eric Arthur Blair
George Orwell, one of the most admirable British authors of the 20th century gave us the sharply allegorical novella, The Animal Farm
. He zeroed in on his choice of name, George Orwell, as it was a "good round English name". This pen name also spawned the term Orwellian
, used to describe a situation detrimental to the welfare of a free society.
J. K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith
J. K. Rowling needs no introduction, but Robert Galbraith certainly does. The illustrious Ms. Rowling, in an effort to shield her new mystery novel from being (mis)judged, wrote The Cuckoo's Calling
under the name of Robert Galbraith. Quite understandable, since she was asked to switch to the androgynous J. K. Rowling from Joanne Rowling in a bid to conceal her gender.
C. S. Lewis
Clive Hamilton and N. W. Clerk
We associate C. S. Lewis with The Chronicles of Narnia
and The Space Trilogy
, both exemplary works of literature for children. He also wrote poems under the name of Clive Hamilton. But his most touching work remains A Grief Observed
, which he wrote anonymously under the name of N. W. Clerk, and describes his experience of bereavement following the death of his wife.
Dame Agatha Christie
Think Agatha Christie, and all that comes to mind is crime, murders, and robberies so crafty, that it would take a certain Belgian detective to solve. We know her as the creator of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, but she also wrote six romance novels, all published in the name of Mary Westmacott.
Silence Dogood and Richard Saunders
As one of the Founding Fathers of America, Benjamin Franklin had a lot on his plate, despite which he dabbled as an author, scientist, musician, politician, and diplomat, among several other things. His first pen name was Silence Dogood, and he also wrote by the name of Richard Saunders.
The undisputed king of science fiction, Isaac Asimov wrote his best novels, including the Galactic Empire series
and the Robot series
under his actual name. His Lucky Starr series
, directed at young fans of science fiction was written under the name of Paul French.
Everyone's favorite horror novels mostly carry one name - that of Stephen King. The speed at which King wrote was astounding - especially at a time when most authors averaged a book a year. King, therefore, decided that the only way to publish more material was to take a pen name, and that's how Richard Bachman came into being.
Recognize These Famous Authors?
Bestselling author of the sci-fi thriller genre, Michael Crichton
used three pseudonyms - John Lange, Jeffery Hudson, and Michael Douglas.
Acclaimed American writer Washington Irving
also wrote in the name of Jonathan Oldstyle, Diedrich Knickerbocker, and Geoffrey Crayon.
Belgian cartoonist Georges Prosper Remi authored the much-loved comic, The Adventures of Tintin
by the name of Hergé
Samuel Langhorne Clemens took several obscure pen names, but his most prominent pseudonym remains Mark Twain
The Adventures of Pinocchio
was written by Italian author Carlo Lorenzini, using the pen name Carlo Collodi
is a familiar name to those who've read The Cat in the Hat
or How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
. His actual name was Theodor Seuss Geisel, and was known to use other pen names like Theo LeSieg and Dr. Theophrastus Seuss.
is a master of the romance genre. Her birth name is Eleanor Marie Robertson, and has used three other pen names - J. D. Robb, Jill March, and Sarah Hardesty.
writer Louisa May Alcott
wrote quite a few novels like A Long Fatal Love Chase
and Pauline's Passion and Punishment
by the name of A. M. Barnard.
Sisters Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë
chose pen names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell respectively in order to protect their privacy, and to refrain their work from being viewed as 'feminine'.
Breakfast at Tiffany's
writer, Truman Capote's
actual name is Truman Streckfus Persons.
Mary Anne Evans (also Mary Ann Evans), known to many as George Eliot
took on the masculine pseudonym to protect her work from being classified as stereotypically feminine.
William Shakespeare once alluded to the insignificance of a name, especially in terms of the other important attributes the object may hold. To writers, a pseudonym comes with freedom, and brings along a gay sense of obscurity. So, the next time a writer is asked, "what's in a name?", the answer would definitely be, "lots".