The Heart of the Hyacinth by Onoto Watanna (real name - Winnifred Eaton)

Pseudonym, pen name or alias - authors have been writing under names other than their own for centuries, and their reasons for doing so differ from writer to writer.

Charles Dodgson was a mathematician and Anglican deacon who possibly wanted to distance himself from his hobby of writing nonsense literature and children’s stories.  By using Lewis Carroll, he could write and keep the day job.  By contrast, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (which is a bit of a mouthful) couldn’t decide on just one fake name. He thought that the Mississippi boatman’s call of Mark Twain would lend a southern air to his stories of life on the river, while Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass was just silly enough for his comic writing.

Other writers had their pen names forced upon them such as the Brontë clan (Anne, Emily and Charlotte) who feared their work would be judged differently if it were known they were female. They chose to write as Acton Bell, Ellis Bell and Currer Bell respectively.  The same fate befell Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin, who is better known as George Sand.

Gothic illustrator Edward Gorey wrote under several pseudonyms, most of which were anagrams of his own name such as Ogdred Weary, Regera Dowdy, Dogear Wryde and E. G. Deadworry.

Publishers frequently recommend pen names when prolific writers wish to churn out books in quick succession or if they wish to branch into new genres, including populist ones. Stephen King was told early in his career that if he wanted to publish more than one book a year he would have to do it under another name and so Richard Bachman was born.  Romance writer Nora Roberts has published some of her 150+ books as J.D. Robb, Jill March and Sarah Hardesty.  Dean Koontz has several pseudonyms.

There are many, many more – Eric Blair used George Orwell, Karen Blixen used Isak Dinesen, Georges Remi used Hergé, Daniel Handler uses Lemony Snicket, and Isaac Asimov used Paul French. Most recently, blockbuster bestseller JK Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter books, quietly published a crime novel under the name Robert Galbraith. As a result, she enjoyed unbiased reviews from critics, without the preconceived notions that her own name carries. And then, of course, when it "leaked" that she was the book's true author, she also got to enjoy a dizzying rocket to the top of all the bestseller lists. Not too shabby.


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Literary Pseudonyms and JK Rowling′s Mystery Pen Name Play Video

Notable Noms de Plume

At Swim Two Birds by Flann O'Brien - real name: Brian O'Nolan

At Swim Two Birds
Flann O'Brien
(real name: Brian O'Nolan)

O’Nolan also used Myles Na Gopaleen. After O’Nolan’s father died, he had to support 10 siblings, which he did with a job with the Irish Civil Service. His pen names helped him get around the job’s regulations regarding moonlighting.

A History of New York by Diedrich Knickerbocker - real name: Washington Irving

A History of New York
Diedrich Knickerbocker
(real name: Washington Irving)

Irving created Knickerbocker for a 19th century marketing campaign where he placed ads seeking Knickerbocker who had apparently failed to pay a hotel bill.

Double or Quits by A.A. Fair - real name: Erle Stanley Gardner

Double or Quits
A.A. Fair
(real name: Erle Stanley Gardner)

Like many mystery writers, Gardner tried to differentiate some of his writing by taking a variety of pen names. A.A. Fair was the one used for his Cool and Lam series

Midshipman Bolitho and the 'Avenger' by Alexander Kent - real name: Alexander Kent

Midshipman Bolitho and the 'Avenger'
Alexander Kent
(real name: Douglas Reeman)

Reeman used Alexander Kent to honour his friend and fellow naval officer of that name who died during World War II. Reeman used Kent’s name for the entire Richard Bolitho series.

Murder in the Dispensary by Jolyon Carr - real name: Edith Pargeter

Murder in the Dispensary
Jolyon Carr
(real name: Edith Pargeter)

Pargeter wrote under a number of names including John Redfern, Jolyon Carr, and Ellis Peters which she used for her most popular series starring Brother Cadfael, a 12th century Welsh Benedictine monk.

The Master of Black-tower by Barbara Michaels - real name: Barbara Mertz

The Master of Black-tower
Barbara Michaels
(real name: Barbara Mertz)

Mertz studied Egyptology and published several non-fiction works before branching into gothic and supernatural thrillers, and adopting the name of Barbara Michaels. She also penned the Amelia Peabody series as Elizabeth Peters.

Rocket to Luna by Richard Marsten - real name: Salvatore Lombino

Rocket to Luna
Richard Marsten
(real name: Salvatore Lombino)

Lombino legally changed his name to Evan Hunter after an editor said it would help sell books. Hunter became successful and then began using S.A. Lombino, Hunt Collins, Richard Marsten and eventually Ed McBain.

The Heart of Hyacinth by Onoto Watanna - real name: Winnifred Eaton

The Heart of Hyacinth
Onoto Watanna
(real name: Winnifred Eaton)

Canadian-born author Eaton had Chinese-British ancestry. After success publishing short stories in the Saturday Evening Post, she switched to novels using the pen name of Onoto Watanna in order to sound Japanese-American.

Daughter Fair by Peter Graaf - real name: Samuel Youd

Daughter Fair
Peter Graaf
(real name: Samuel Youd)

One of the many pen names used by British science fiction author Youd, who also adopted the names Christopher Youd, John Christopher, Hilary Ford, and Stanley Winchester to manage his epic output.

The Story of O by Pauline Reage - real name: Anne Desclos

The Story of O
Pauline Reage
(real name: Anne Desclos)

Desclos was a French journalist and critic who introduced writers like Evelyn Waugh and F. Scott Fitzgerald to France. She did this using the pen name Dominique Aury. She used Pauline Réage for The Story of O – infamous for its graphic sexuality.

Mon Frère Yves by Pierre Loti - real name: Julien Viaud

Mon Frère Yves
Pierre Loti
(real name: Julien Viaud)

Loti was the pseudonym used by French naval officer and novelist Viaud. Unlike many other authors, he only wrote under the name Loti because he thought it reflected his public persona. His friends call him “le Loti” after the lotus flower.

The Eiger Sanction by Trevanian - real name: Dr. Rodney William Whitaker

The Eiger Sanction
(real name: Dr. Rodney William Whitaker)

Trevanian kept his identity hidden for years before finally revealing who he was in a New York Times interview. Whitaker selected the name because of his wife’s appreciation of English historian G.M. Trevelyan.

I Spit on Your Grave by Boris Vian - pen name: Vernon Sullivan

I Spit on Your Grave (sold out)
Boris Vian
(pen name: Vernon Sullivan)

Vian was a French polymath who published poetry and novels. He wrote J'irai cracher sur vos tombes (I Shall Spit on Your Graves) in 15 days. It was banned because of its rape and murder scenes.

To Beg I am Ashamed by Sheila Cousins - real name: Ronald Matthews & perhaps Graham Greene

To Beg I Am Ashamed
Sheila Cousins
(real name: Ronald Matthews & perhaps Graham Greene)

Cousins’ only book is described as “The authentic autobiography of a London prostitute” but legal threats over its content hampered its publication. Green’s involvement remains pure speculation.

Don't Lie to Me by Tucker Coe - real name: Donald Westlake

Don't Lie to Me
Tucker Coe
(real name: Donald Westlake)

Another author who was too prolific for one moniker, this three- time Edgar Award winner wrote under his own name as well as Richard Stark, Alan Marshall, Samuel Holt and many more.

A House is Built by M. Barnard Eldershaw - real names: Flora Eldershaw & Marjorie Barnard

A House is Built
M. Barnard Eldershaw
(real names: Flora Eldershaw & Marjorie Barnard)

This duo collaborated to write a number of bestsellers under the name M. Barnard Eldershaw as well as publishing their own non fiction books. Barnard also wrote one novel on her own, The Persimmon Tree.

Unfinished Portrait by Mary WEstmacott - real name: Agatha Christie

Unfinished Portrait
Mary Westmacott
(real name: Agatha Christie)

Queen of the whodunits Christie was known for mysteries but wrote romance novels under the pen name of Mary Westmacott

Death at the President's Lodging by Michael Innes - real name: J.I.M. Stewart

Death at the President's Lodging
Michael Innes
(real name: J.I.M. Stewart)

Innes is the author credited with writing the Inspector Appleby series as well as other crime novels. The man behind the pen name is the literary critic and contemporary novelist J.I.M. Stewart.

Distressing Dialogues by Nancy Boyd - real name: Edna St. Vincent Millay

Distressing Dialogues
Nancy Boyd
(real name: Edna St. Vincent Millay)

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay used the pen name of Nancy Boyd for her prose work.

Adrenaline by James Dillinger - real name: James Robert Baker

James Dillinger
(real name: James Robert Baker)

Adrenalin is the story of two gay lovers who shoot a homophobic coop after being harassed by him. Dillinger/Baker’s best known works are Boy Wonder and Fuel-Injected Dreams - both published under his real name.

Literary Pseudonyms and JK Rowling's Mystery Pen Name:

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