Pen Names- Is It Worth It?

This image does not belong to me

This image does not belong to me

Every writer is eventually faced with the same conundrum: Do I write under my legal name, or do I create an alternate persona to write with? I have been asked so, so many times why I chose to write with a psuedonym. So, buckle your seatbealts, boys and girls, I’m going to explain why I use a fake name.

Rose Winters

Oh, so you didn’t know Mandy wasn’t my real name? Well I guess we should start from the beginning. When I published my first books (Beyond the Unknown and book 2 Revealing the Unknown) I was a minor in high school (though I wrote the books in middle school). And not only that, I had been using direct quotes and characters from my school! This wasn’t something I wanted attached to my name. I wrote a couple scenes that were very near and dear to my heart and were a little embarrassing to be sharing, but the story needed them. So that was why I published under Rose Winters when I first published.

Mandy Tremelling

Now, after that explanation, you’re probably saying “But, Mandy, you’re not a minor anymore! Your novel My World of Glass doesn’t have any characters based off of anyone you know! You didn’t use direct quotes from people around you! By this logic, you shouldn’t have used a penname!” Well, you’re right, on all accounts.

I chose to continue with a fake name because, after all these years, I’ve enjoyed keeping my writing life seperate from my real life. I compartmentalize many parts of my life, it’s easier for me to manage my anxiety and other issues that way. So I wrote under Mandy Tremelling this time. It’s nice to be able to have run into people in town who had my book recommended to them, they read it and like it, and try to recommend it to me when I see them reading it. I enjoy the Clark Kent feeling of anonymity. (Plus, you never know, maybe eventually 'I’ll be cool enough to have crazy fans. And I gotta test their skills to see if they can find the real me in the clutter! I joke.)

How to: Pen Name Edition

When I was finding a name to publish under in High School I read all the articles and everything I could to figure out how to come up with the perfect psuedonym. (And I had to learn what that word was, too) I talked to lots of authors and heard lots of opinions. What I finally came to understand is every author has different reasons and ways to go about this. Kind of a let down, I know. But there is really no right answer. From pen names that are just initials (Hello, JK Rowling) to gender changes (Robert Gailbraith, also Joanne Rowling) or even complete persona changes (George Orwell is the author of Animal Farm, but is actually named Eric Blair). There are so many very famous ways to come up with an alter ego.

Rose Winters was fun to come up with, but also a little embarrassing (just like the novel was to publish). The name Rose came from my middle school crush. He would call me Rose for a super silly, middle school-romantic reason. I also drew roses on every surface and with every medium I could get my hands on. (My frosting roses were pretty epic.) So that name was easy to figure out. Middle school Rose had everything to do with the Beyond the Unknown books. Winters was a little harder to figure out. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to make up a fake surname like the first name, or what. Luckily I had a writing mentor during the time I was writing the books who helped out. She writes online under a false name as well, the first and last names both coming from family surnames. So I decided to take my mother’s maiden name and use it as a surname.

Now the embarrassing part. I walked around everywhere calling myself Rose Winters. I was so proud of how it sounded. After I published, though, was when my mom lovingly reminded me, “But my maiden name is Winter, not WinterS.” But Rose Winter didn’t sound as cool, or roll off the tongue, as well as Rose Winters. So it stayed.

Mandy Tremelling was easier to come up with. I kept the same concept, I used a nickname and a surname from my family. After I published under Rose Winters, all of my family was so disappointed that they wouldn’t be able to see my name on a cover. But I still didn’t want to write under my legal name. So I took my family’s nickname for me, added it to a family name, and there came my new psuedonym. (They still aren’t pleased, but whatever. Can’t make everyone happy!)

The Takeaway

Coming up with a fake name is a much more daunting task than one might think. Whatever name you choose will be stuck there, on the internet history, forever. Sure, if you Indie Publish, it’s kinda easy to replace the name on the cover and paperwork. But the internet is fickle, and we all know what’s on the internet stays on the internet. (Which is why I still have an active rosewinters.author@gmail.com email address open which I still get fanmail in, as well as my mandy.tremelling@gmail.com email I get writing requests in.) Once your name is out there, it’s going to be out there. It’s scary and intimidating, and the name may not come as easily to you as you’d wish. But it’s a helpful and fun part of the writing process.

If this doesn’t answer your questions and you have more for me, please reach out to me! Either on Twitter ( @MandyTremmy ) or Facebook, or email, or whatever, please let me know if you have more questions and I will happily answer them for you!