Friday, February 4, 2011

Do You Need An Alternate Identity?

So what’s up with established, and even brand new authors using a pseudonym? I know there are certain circumstances where an alias would be appropriate, like if a man is writing romance books for Harlequin or some other famous writer is churning out those “trashy”, as they’re known, novels like porn that some women eat for breakfast. I get why an author wouldn’t want to pen his own name under those circumstances. Or perhaps in a case of ghost writing someone’s biography. Or maybe if your real name is too close to another author’s name that it creates confusion. I can understand that. Perhaps you’ve got a really bad name. There are people who go through life with horrible names, names that rhyme with something unpleasant or are just comical.

When I was in nursery school (wasn’t called daycare way back then) I had two teachers and their names were Mrs. Pickles and Mrs. Mustard. True story. Those were their names. You can believe it or not. How the hell they ended up starting a nursery school together I think it must have been fate. Now, for a crime fiction writer both of those last names lack a certain credence I think necessary for a reader to take seriously.  So a nom de plume would be in order. I met a guy recently whose last name was Bozo. He pronounced it "Bah-so". I’m sorry, you can pronounce it any way you want, but it’s Bozo. That’s how it was spelled, that’s how I wrote it down, and that’s how I announced it to those within earshot once he left (couldn’t help myself). Now if he was an author, particularly of crime fiction, Bozo would need to turn in the big red shoes and get a serious name, as a marketing strategy strictly speaking. Preferably something tough sounding.  Like Stone or Steel. I’ve heard of a fellow going through life with the name Dick Seaman. Why the hell wouldn’t he just go with Richard? Seems like the best option but maybe he didn’t get enough attention as a child and is trying to make up for it. Who knows? These things happen.

I once bought a car from Al Palladini’s Pinetree Lincoln Mercury in Woodbridge Ontario because I liked his commercials...”Any Palladini is a pal of mine”.  That was his slogan. Had his last name had the word cock or dick in it, I don’t know how I would have felt about it.  I wonder how successful a car dealership by the famous race car driver Dick Trickle, would have been? I met a guy once with the name Pen Guin. He was Chinese. Ironically, I first saw him in a photograph and he was dressed in a tux. Now that’s pure comedy right there.

          I can understand why some actors do the whole stage name thing, especially if they had a name like my little Chinese aforementioned friend. And I can see how a musician might want to have a handle a little more in line with their persona. Like 50 Cent, Queen Latifah, or Sticky Fingaz. That’s just par for the industry they’re in. I think Prince went a bit too far when he renamed himself a symbol. And then he was just referred to as “the Artist Formerly Known as Prince”. Because even someone with a trace of a brain cell in their head knows that a symbol is not a name. Apparently Prince didn’t get the memo because he was raised by illiterate aliens. Probably it was a marketing ploy. Only him and his equally pint-sized lace-pants-wearing friends would know. Oh, was that me making fun of a man’s size? I guess it was.

Strippers of course need to all call themselves Candi with one “i” or Destiny because that’s just being practical. Who wants to see a woman named Nancy taking off her clothes? I know I sure don’t. But, why for instance, would Joyce Carol Oates who has a huge audience choose to publish under another name? Or Stephen King. His name alone on a book cover is an automatic best-seller so why invent Richard Bachman, Stephen King? Why Stephen King? And then later he releases a book titled “The Bachman Books” by Stephen King. JCO did the same thing when her publishers released “Joyce Carol Oates writing as Rosamond Smith”. Seems to defeat the whole purpose doesn’t it? Although what that original purpose was, I couldn’t say. I’m sure they had their reasons. Maybe being too famous has it’s difficulties. But if you’re going to hide yourself behind an alias, and then go and announce it, especially at the same time as you’re writing under your own name (I’ve seen this done), it seems entirely pointless. Or maybe this is just me missing something.  

From now on I think  I’ll call myself.... Snooki. Hey, it worked for her. Put her squarely on the NYT’s best-seller list. I’ll need some new hair though, mine’s a little too Julia Madeleine-ish.

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