While there are many good reasons for using a pen name, choosing one and getting used to it is another matter. My pseudonym—Vina Arno—has a special meaning for me. Still, it’s taking time to sink in.
If you’re in the process of choosing a pen name, you can learn from the experience of other writers. Samuel Clemens used to be a steamboat pilot who worked on the Mississippi River. No wonder he chose Mark Twain as his pseudonym. It’s a term used by boat crewmen when they are calling for two fathoms (one fathom is a depth of six feet). J.K. Rowling’s pen name, Robert Galbraith, is a combination of the name of her political hero, Robert F. Kennedy, and her childhood fantasy name, Ella Galbraith.
If you’re having a tough time creating a pen name, there are name generators available online. See if anything interesting comes up. Baby-name books also offer an alternative source.
I am Vina Arno
As for me, Vina came from my husband’s first name, Vincent, and our daughter’s name, Nina. Arno is the name of the famous river in Florence, Italy. We were visiting Tuscany in July 2013 when I decided to write a romance book.
Within nine months of that decision, I not only completed my novella, “In His Corner,” but I also successfully submitted it to Lyrical Press, an imprint of Kensington Publishing. Suddenly, I am Vina Arno. The name is specified in my contract.
Although I communicate with my editor and other Kensington staffers using my real name, all of my documents are marked according to my pen name. It doesn’t bother me.
But when I was creating an author’s page on Goodreads, Amazon.com, and Facebook, I felt the pangs of an identity crisis. Maintaining multiple accounts using different names requiring slightly different bios was unexpectedly stressful. I have a long list of things to do before my book’s release on April 14, 2015. Dealing with a pseudonym identity crisis is not on that list. I had to adjust my attitude.
Tips for Avoiding Pseudonym Identity Crisis
If you’re using a pseudonym and you find yourself in a similar situation, here are three tips:
Be Patient. Using a pen name is like changing your last name after getting married. Remember the hassle of getting a new social security number and changing your driver’s license and passport? Not to mention the trouble of changing the name on your credit cards, bank accounts, and even library cards. If you write for a living, it means changing your byline. Adopting a pseudonym is similar, so be patient.
Treat it as a Nickname. Think of your pseudonym as a nickname. If your parents call you Pumpkin and your spouse calls you Baby, then it’s perfectly all right to let your readers call you by your pen name.
Remember the Person you are. I write romance as Vina Arno, but I’m the same person. I use the same skills and discipline, and apply the same amount of enthusiasm and dedication. Nothing has changed, and I have everything to gain, thanks to my pen name.
Photos by Vincent Fazzi, 2013.