Writing Under A Pen Name

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of having an impromptu interview with Carrie Rubin about her usage of a pen name for her cozy mystery The Cruise Ship Lost My Daughter.

Carrie isn’t alone in using a pen name. In fact, she is in good company. Can you identify the well-known writers who wrote under these pen names? (answers are at the end of the post – no cheating!).

Robert Galbraith

Richard Bachman

Dan Kavanagh

Benjamin Black

Mary Westmacott

Claire Morgan

Back to Carrie and her pen name. Here are some questions which Carrie so graciously accepted to answer.

What made you write this book under another name?   

I decided to use a pen name for the cozy mystery because it’s a different genre than what I normally write. Readers develop expectations from a writer in terms of style and plot elements, and using different names for different genres can be helpful to avoid steering a reader down the wrong path. For example, while someone might enjoy the light and clean style of my cozy mystery, they might be put off by one of my thrillers, which tend to be dark and sometimes contain violence and profanity. So, I thought it made sense to differentiate the two genres by using different names.

Has this led to any confusion or marketing difficulties? 

Marketing is always difficult and definitely not my strong suit, but I think it’s actually made it easier in the sense that my website still presents me as a writer of genre-bending medical thrillers. If I add a humorous cozy mystery to my banner of books, it might be an odd contrast. That being said, my various profiles across the internet (e.g., on Amazon, on Goodreads, on my website) mention that I also have a cozy mystery written under a pen name, and Morgan Mayer’s profile mentions she also writes thrillers under my name, so hopefully any interested readers will find their way from one author name to the other.

Are you planning to write other books under Morgan Mayer? 

I’d love to, but I’m not sure how soon because it’ll depend on what happens on the traditional publishing front. Although my agent was wonderfully accommodating and accepted my desire to go indie with The Cruise Ship Lost My Daughter (much quicker path to publication than the traditional route), she currently has one of my unpublished manuscripts on submission and she’ll put another one on submission soon, so if they get deals, I’ll be busy with that for a while. Plus, I’m currently working on the third book in my Benjamin Oris thriller series. But if I get some downtime in between, it would be a lot of fun to write another cozy mystery!

What are advantages to writing under two names?

Aside from what I mentioned above, writing under different names gives an author a chance to experiment a bit. Allows them to write something they haven’t before without clouding the image of their usual line of work.

Here’s what to do if you’re thinking of using a pen name?

Here are the answers to the famous authors pen names.

JK Rowling – Robert Galbraith

Stephen King – Richard Bachman

Julian Barnes – Dan Kavanagh

Agatha Christie – Mary Westmacott

Patricia Highsmith – Claire Morgan

23 thoughts on “Writing Under A Pen Name

  1. That’s such an interesting question, Carol. There are some good reasons for which one might want to use a pen name, especially for those who write two different sorts of series. I like these insights!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much, Carol! I enjoyed answering your questions and am honored you posted them on your blog. Good timing too, because the ebook version of The Cruise Ship Lost My Daughter is currently on sale for 99 cents. 😊

    Thank you again and happy writing to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I totally agree with Carrie’s decision to write under another name in another genre. Interesting topic, considering I too write under a pen name – for other reasons. Hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Carol, an interesting interview with Carrie and good luck to her / Morgan with her latest book. I love the cover and title! Pen names is a topic that came up in my writing group and I totally understand Carrie choosing to go this way with her different genres of books. I’m glad it’s given her more space to experiment with her writing as well. One of my writing friends started off under a pen name … for reasons she was later unsure of and I think one she partially regrets. Carol, I enjoyed the little quiz although I only got two right, alas! I had no idea Stephen King wrote under a pen name!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. This is fascinating, Carrie and Carol. I just downloaded the book on my Kindle and am looking forward to reading it. I never thought I liked cozy mysteries until Amy Reade encouraged me to read hers, and I really enjoy her cozy series (as well as her gothic mysteries – totally different genre). Carrie, what a change from your Bone Curse books (which I also like very much). I’m on the fence about the pen name idea. If not for this post, I don’t know that I would have found this book, since I don’t know Morgan Mayer. But I know Carrie Rubin as a good writer, no matter the genre. I’m also on the fence because I’ve written and published several different books using my own name: romantic suspense, children’s’ books, and soon a flash memoir. I hadn’t considered changing to a pen name, because I’d have to (re)introduce myself to new fans. Interesting dilemma.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had the same reaction as you did, Pam, regarding the pen name Morgan Mayer. I had downloaded it on my Kindle some time ago and forgot all about it but then when I was reminded that it was Carrie Rubin’s book I started reading it. It’s a fun read, especially if you like cruising. And in these times when cruising is off my radar, it’s like going on a vicarious cruise with a delightful mystery happening. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. And interesting post, Carol. I think it probably makes sense for an author to differentiate boos genres using a pen name. At my age, if I were ever to “experiment,” I’d probably just say so in the book description rather than start a whole other marketing project (name recognition takes a long time to build). I’ve enjoyed Carrie’s book and it’s great to hear that she’s doing well. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s an interesting strategy, and one I’ve seen other author’s use. Carrie makes very good points, and it’s good that she combines her pseudonym with information about the rest of her writing. Sometimes it can take real detective work to find out what other books an author has written, and people genuinely interested would appreciate the opportunity to read the rest of her work. I also write in different genres, but like Diane, I can’t imagine trying to market different pen names as well, especially as I never know what I might decide to write next. Good luck to Carrie and thanks, Carol, for introducing us to her new novel.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sadly, I didn’t know any of the real authors behind those pen names. I have heard that it’s a good idea, as pointed out in this blog, to use one when writing a different genre. Great article and nice to meet Carrie.

    Liked by 1 person

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