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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Writing – split personality or not

It could be argued that we writers have split personality issues anyway, what with all those characters rumbling about in our heads, not to mention hearing their voices. The question is, should we use pen-names when certain books are different in style or genre?

Fellow Crooked Cat author David W. Robinson has written an interesting blog about writing and typecasting. It’s worth a look.

There are no easy answers. Authors have to make up their own minds on the thorny subject, as styles and the subject matter differ. 

Quite a while ago (1986), Ruth Rendell wanted to get away from her police and suspense tales and tackle darker, deeper psychological themes; so she invented the penname Barbara Vine. My favourite early Vine books are A Dark-adapted Eye, A Fatal Inversion and King Solomon’s Carpet. Certainly, not all of her readers made the switch to the new books and some felt downright uncomfortable with them. Of course she continued writing under both names and eventually the secret was out. She still produces books under both names.

Readers of cozy crime are not necessarily at ease with gritty procedural thrillers; a little gore might be acceptable, but that too is a thin line to walk upon. Perhaps you should give consideration to the appeal of your work before making a leap. Some opinion favours writing to your audience (once you have one or know what it likes); this can become a strait-jacket, however. Contrary opinion says, write for yourself, whatever the genre, which works too – though in the current hard-nosed market-place, that might prove counter-productive. Truth is, the boundaries are gradually melting away, thanks to the wide appeal of the e-book. You might lose old readers when you switch to a different style or genre; equally, you might gain new readers who love the switch.

Bottom line: write what you’re comfortable writing, and don’t compromise yourself. Have faith in your product. Use a pen-name if that makes you comfortable or if it makes commercial sense. My author page on Amazon identifies me under my pen-names.

I’ve dabbled with a few pen-names over the years, for articles, short stories and even novels. I suspect I’ll continue to use a few, depending on the material.  My crime and thriller books published by Crooked Cat (Spanish Eye, Blood of the Dragon Trees, and Sudden Vengeance) are under my Nik Morton moniker; as will the upcoming thrillers Catalyst, The Prague Papers and The Tehran Text.  My westerns are written as Ross Morton (though I made an exception with Bullets for a Ballot, which is by Nik Morton! [Yes, it does get confusing, but as this latter book was likely to be marketed more at US readers, and I was better known in the US as Nik rather than Ross, I opted for that departure from the norm!]
So, there you have it. If you’re prolific or want to stretch your writing beyond any particular ghetto, there is no simple choice; you have to go with your gut instinct.

My e-books published by Crooked Cat – Amazon UK

My e-books published by Crooked Cat – Amazon COM


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