I just registered for Nathan Bransford’s forum and I got to thinking, which is something I think you’ll agree I tend to do too much. Something that often strikes me when I use my penname is that I’m creating a wholly different persona to who I really am, just because the name is different. I’m sure that anyone who bothers to look can find the ‘real’ me without too much effort, as I make no secret of my likes, dislikes, hobbies, et cetera. I even use my real face. The point behind using the penname Ann Elise Monte is not for secrecy. It’s for ease of spelling, memory and because I don’t really want my real name on the cover of a book. I get enough ridicule about my surname in school, thank you very much.
I put a lot of thought into crafting my penname. I wanted something that looked nice on paper, but wasn’t too difficult to pronounce. I also wanted something that I could easily remember and respond to. Since I already respond to names like “Ann” and “Anna”, and my real name sounds like “Ann Elise” it seemed like a reasonable choice. The name “Monte” is in my mother’s side of the family. I decided against choosing something too pretty or too exotic as everyone has different taste in names and I didn’t want to put people off.
Once I had my penname, I began to build myself a brand around it. Sure, most people still won’t know who the heck I am, but at least I can tell a publisher or agent that I already have some kind of platform, something which they tend to look favourably on as far as I can gather from the information provided on agent blogs and the like. While I’m not extremely active, I do tweet, blog (obviously) and participate in forums, all the while using the identity I have crafted. I’m still me, just with a shiny name.
Some authors create elaborate alter egos and keep their true lives tightly under wraps. That might work for some people, but not for me. I briefly considered doing something like that, but that would prevent me from being myself. While I do enjoy acting, being a completely different person all the time while online did not appeal to me.
Still, everybody’s different and you should do what you feel is best for you. I just thought I’d give you my experience, since that’s mostly what I do on this blog anyway.