Does a Rose by Any Other Name …

September 12, 2006 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

“Must a name mean something?” Alice asked doubtfully.

“Of course it must,” Humpty Dumpty said, with a short laugh. “My name means the shape I am and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape.”

                                                                               – Lewis Carroll

I never planned on using a pen name as part of my writing career.  It’s not that I find them distasteful in anyway, I just happen to be one of the few people I know who actually likes her name.  (Thanks Mom and Dad!) I know many famous writers have used pseudonyms to great success.  Just look at Mark Twain and Lewis Carroll.  Even J.K. Rowling preferred adopting her grandmothers’ middle initial over using her given name Joanne.  Ray Bradbury had over 17 different noms de plume!  And, there are lesser known writers with as many as 60 aliases used in publishing their works.  Sometimes it is wise or necessary for an author to take a pseudonym;  in cases where they may write for extremely different genres, or when their name is simply long or hard to remember. 

However, I feel strongly that a writer should be willing to take credit for anything she writes, no matter how well it is received or panned by the public.  There is an accountability to signing your name to a piece, sending it out into the world and owning a portion of its fruits, sweet or sour.

That said, I find myself with a dilemma.  There is already an established author and public speaker by the name of Rebekah Montgomery.  She has the website rebekahmontgomery.com, and is very well known within the Christian writing world.  She is also a freelance writer who has written many magazine articles under the name.  

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My middle name, Lynn Montgomery is not an option if I plan on continuing to write screenplays, (and I do), because there is another screenwriter by that name, and the WGA will not allow two different people to be credited under the same name to avoid confusion.

My full name is still an option, but I wonder if it is still too similar to the aforementioned author, or too long.  At eight syllables: Rebekah Lynn Montgomery, may be a mouthful.  And then, there’s the spelling caveat.  Most people looking for me would assume my name is Rebecca. 

I’ve considered adopting my grandmother’s middle name Mae, but think it might read a bit old fashioned. My initials, R.L. Montgomery, (commonly how I sign my name), seem to me, to not give enough information about who I am.  However, that could be a good thing:

Studies show that sexism is still a strong force in the book market. Readers, especially boys and young men, tend to choose a male author’s name over a female author’s name. Fortunately, the studies also show that these sexist readers tend to assume that any gender-neutral name is male (this is why the author of the Harry Potter books uses initials instead of her first name- her publisher wanted her to avoid the sexual bias so common in boys).”

 – Jamie Hall, How to Choose a Pen Name

The L would most likely give away my female status though, just as easily knowing that there are few male names that start with an L. 

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The advice for writers searching for pen names is patchy at best, some suggest choosing a gender neutral name, others laud choosing a name from the first half of the alphabet as likely to get more premium bookstore shelf placement as opposed to those poor souls surnamed Zachary who will find themselves in the hunchbacks corner at the bottom of store shelves.  Other sage advice offered is to try and choose a name that will place you nearby other best-selling authors on the shelves; sandwiched between Stephen King and Dean Koontz for example. 

It’s definitely an issue that will take some more internal debate.  Though it all may seem like a moot point at the moment,  as I have nothing about to be published, I have been working on several articles, and sending queries out to publishers requires me to be somewhat resolved of my identity crisis.

I’m open to suggestions, so feel free to drop me any ideas you may have that wouldn’t be better suited to rap artists (thanks Kev!), wrestlers, or comic book heroes.

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