My birth certificate states: Dianna Lynn Tibert, but am I really that person recorded many decades ago? Shouldn’t a name give a hint of personality, of trade, of origin?
“Aye,” you say, “a surname tag gives the origin.”
That’s only one-fourth correct. A surname at birth gives only the origin of the father’s father’s father’s father. It completely ignores the father’s mother and the mother’s family lines.
More than four hundred years ago, when surnames were becoming standard, people wore names of their profession—Baker, Fletcher, Crofter—and their father—M’Donald, McIsaac, O’Brien—and their surroundings—Forrest, Glen, Field—and their locations—Glasgow, Paris, Lomond—and countless other things associated with their lives. There was great pride to be known as Joe the Fletcher or Matilda of the Meadow.
Several years ago while having my eyes tested, the optometrist asked me if I ever hesitated to make decisions. A little confused, I asked why. “You’re the quickest patient I ever had for giving answers,” he said. Each time he changed the lens for me to see which was clearer than the other, my answer was immediate.
I still give quick answers unless there is an important reason to ponder. However, I’ve learnt over the years that sometimes pondering can taint an answer. Gut reaction is sometimes better.
When it came to deciding if I wanted to use a pen name for my youth novel, I thought long and hard about the consequences. After all, I had become attached to the name I had grown up with. I had even researched and found it had arrived in Canada in 1751. Although the spelling had changed over the centuries, it was the name given to me at birth.
The surname doesn’t accurately reflect who I am, just who my father’s father’s father was. He was German and could trace all his ancestors back to Germany. However, I am an equal mixture of four cultures: German, Scottish, English and Irish.
Still, the name on my official records stood above the other three surnames of my ancestors.
With the deadline for my novel approaching, I flipped back and forth from, No, don’t use a pen name to, Yes, use a pen name.
The argument for not using a pen name was obvious. My real name was my name. It had already been published, so readers may recognise it. It could easily be found all over the web. I could claim that book as mine without explanation.
The argument for using a pen name was also obvious. I could create a name easily pronounced, easily spelt and easily remembered. After all, adults couldn’t pronounce it properly so how could I expect a ten-year-old to do so? Secretaries copying information from one source to another couldn’t even get the spelling right to keep my medical records straight.
I thought about creating a pen name for a month, considering the pros and cons. Then one morning, before opening my eyes, a name materialized in my head. I admit I was half asleep when I thought of it. I asked myself, “What name would not only appeal to kids, but be easily remembered by them?”
Candy McMudd popped in my head. I got up and immediately wrote it down. There, I had decided in that one second that I should use a pen name and what that pen name would be. All day, I played with the idea. Maybe it wasn’t the best. Maybe I should rethink this idea. Then I’d remind myself that gut reactions were better than long pondering discussions with one self.
And Candy McMudd was born. She would be the author of all my children’s books and similar material.
Now and again, I wonder if my decision was the right one. I feel a little uncertain about saying, “I’m Candy McMudd.” when promoting my book. I feel I must explain that it is just a name, one that is easy to remember, spell and pronounce.
On the other hand, books sold over the Internet don’t need me to say that. It doesn’t really matter what name is attached to a title as long as readers recognise it.
Throughout my nonfiction career, I’ve used my given name. Now that I feel I’m on the verge of my fiction career, I must decide what I’ll use. Should I simply use my given name or use both my given name for nonfiction and Candy McMudd for everything else? Or should I chose a third and use it for my adult fiction?
I feel like I’m going through an identity crisis.
It will probably be years before I know for sure if my decisions were good or a not so good. Until then, I’ll just keep on writing with whatever name tag I’m wearing.
Do you use a pen name? If so, how do you feel about it?