Freelance Writing and Pseudonyms

Can you imagine what it's like going into a bank and hearing the girls behind the counter giggling about how my name makes them think I'm one of those romance writers? You know - the type who writes steamy bodice-rippers with guys like Fabio on the cover?

It happens more than you'd think.

With a name like Bianca Raven I know I've been tempted more than once to try my hand at one of those steamy, racy romance things, just to see how I'd fare with writing about a breathless heroine who can't possibly live another moment without feeling the sweet tender lips of her stunningly-gorgeous perfect hero who doesn't know she's alive yet, but she's swooning dutifully just in case he notices and ... and ...

Oh who am I kidding? I write fantasy. They don't get steamy or breathless just by reading a four page description of how good looking someone is. And neither do I. So the romance idea went out the window - and so did the idea of using my unfortunate name as a talking point.

My Italian-born mother named me Bianca Maria Catalano, after my grandmother. I have no idea what she was on when she decided it sounded like a "good Australian name" - but she didn't even get close. I would have preferred something seriously Australian. Like Sheila. Or Sharon. Or Tracy. All very common Australian names.

Even so, the name Bianca isn't so bad on it's own. People pronounce it in so many different ways it's funny, but overall it's still not a bad name.

Until I met my ex-husband, Jackson Raven. (I sure hope he never Googles his own name. I once promised him I'd never put his name on the net...)

Sigh. Thus I became Bianca Raven. I keep the name even though I'm now divorced because I want my daughter to have the same last name as I do.

When I first began freelancing I considered using a pseudonym. I wanted to call myself Jane Smith. I wanted a NORMAL name so badly. I didn't want to be the subject of people's bodice-ripper-writer jokes.

Writing under a pseudonym can have all sorts of legal implications. Did you know if you write a novel under a pen-name, you're not allowed to autograph that book? Otherwise you're signing someone else's name - even though it's really you. You're just not allowed to do it.

Another issue is the copyright thing. If I write something as Jane Smith can I really prove I'm the rightful author of that piece of work later if someone plagiarizes my stuff?

Publishers are good about writers using pseudonyms. They know the contract - and the check! - get written out to your real name but the work is published with your pen-name as the byline.

For me personally, I have an issue about reputation. I want to be proud of my work. I want others to know I wrote it. I want to be able to show my mom my work so she can see my name clearly on the mast-head or on that byline.

If I was to give in and write under a pseudonym, would I then begin to write work that's less than my best just because no one knows it's me? Who knows.

Pseudonyms can also be a great thing for some writers. Many writers publish work under a pseudonym for a variety of reasons. Some want to switch genres and not offend readers. In fact, many male writers write large amounts of romance under female names so their readers don't get confused. Cool, huh?

One of my good friends, Lee Masterson, is an amazingly prolific writer. She writes financial columns and features for several magazines, owns a couple of her own ezines, writes horror fiction and in her spare time she even writes romance and erotica under a pseudonym. She chose to separate her writing names because she doesn't want her horror fans picking up her romance stuff - and vice versa.

If you decide you'd rather be someone else when you write, then that's great!

But if you're going to write a romance-bodice-ripper, invent a fabulous pen-name like Stormy Summers or Windy Willows or .... Bianca Raven ;)


jhellie_baby said...

Hi Bianca. Great blog. :)

Bianca Raven said...

Why thank you Jhellie. Your own blog is pretty cool too :)

Shadowfire said...

I just found this blog when I was looking for info on using pen names. Just starting as a freelance writer (well, I was desperate actually and have been working for slave wages for quite a while as someone told me they should be called ($2.50 for a 500 word article requiring research for example). Anyway, another freelancer told me that was wrong and to get out of my rut and I'm starting to.

Thanks for all of the information you have available on this blog for people like me just starting out! It's a real lifesaver and greatly appreciated! :)

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