Women Writers and their Male Nom de Plumes

Me, reading a book. See?
Me, reading a book. See?

I love books. I live books, I breathe them (on a day to day basis, thanks to Barnes and Noble). I’m a tad pained right now because I’m behind on my reading goal.

Besides that, I love writing. I want to write for a living (get paid something decent for it, I mean) and hopefully writing novels will be in my future. I don’t know what genre said books will be in. I’m not even sure it matters at this point.

What I don’t want, however, is to adapt a male pseudonym just so people will read my work.

I love J.K. Rowling, I really do. I have every Harry Potter book in Hardcover, every movie. I even own Casual Vacancy, despite the fact that I haven’t actually sat down to read it. It’s actually because of this that I understand her taking on a pen name. People had obvious difficulties getting through Casual Vacancy while separating Ms. Rowling from her previous works.

I think, however, I’m most unnerved by her (or her publisher, we’re not really sure) decision to take on a male name for her new mystery series. Considering she already took on an ambiguous name her the Harry Potter series in order to attract more young boys to read the series, I’m realizing more and more just how patriarchal the book society still is.

When I think of writing under a male name or taking on a more gender-neutral pen name, I think of Jo from Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott (who also wrote under a male name). This book takes place in the early 1900s, where it’s expected that society is male-driven. It’s unfair, but that’s the way society was.

But I certainly don’t think of it as being an issue today.

Credit goes to Jezebel!
Credit goes to Jezebel.

And yet, here we are. In the early 1980s, Nora Roberts began writing science fiction/mystery novels under the name “J. D. Robb,” which supposedly would allow her Publishers to publish more of her books per year. I still cannot help but wonder, however, if her desire to publish in the Science Fiction and Mystery Genres prompted her taking on a male name.

The Publishing industry is frightened of the possibility of rejection. This means less money. And for those who have heart – this means that perfectly well-written books will be ignored because the author has a vagina instead of a penis.

Why does the common public believe that women cannot write characters of a different gender from them? We didn’t stop reading George R. R. Martin books because he decided to write about females. Philip Pullman wasn’t ignored because his main character, Lyra, is a little girl instead of a little boy, and neither did we ignore Garth Nix for the same reason.

But because a woman, Joanne Rowling, wrote JKRowlingPA_468x461about a little boy, she was asked to adapt a gender-neutral name to avoid rejection. And now, I feel, that she was told to do the same thing for her new detective series.

It’s exhausting, fighting this battle, when almost every Media (even my beloved books) seems to fight me back. Here’s a quote from a publisher (Taken from an Article by The Wall Street Journal):

“”It sometimes makes sense for a female author to use a pseudonym, particularly when the main characters are male, or when it’s a genre with a strong appeal to men, like military science fiction, certain types of fantasy or gritty thrillers,” says Penguin editor Anne Sowards, whose fantasy authors K.A. Stewart, Rob Thurman and K.J. Taylor are women.”

To me, while it makes sense, it still perpetuates a sexist society. It’s time to start changing and stop hoping that someday someone will be okay with me keeping my name.

For your enjoyment:

Why Are Women Writers Still Stuck Behind Pseudonyms?

10 Famous Females Who Used Male Pen names

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Jeyna Grace says:

    If there is one reason I would change my name to a totally different one, it would be because the name sounds like it’s from a fantasy world.

    1. sotuachair says:

      Hah! I would probably just add a pronunciation guide.

      The Straw Feminist
      By: Seanna (SHAWNA) Tucker.

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