Nom De Plume

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Hey guys! Sorry to have been MIA again, but after the much-needed fiery re-fueling of this year’s NOHSCBWI conference in Cleveland, I’ve finally taken the opportunity to take a break from the meticulous process of novel editing to put in a blog post for the month of October (I have to get in at least one). It also doesn’t help that I’ve been re-bitten by the anime monster, and the effects are far more virulent than they were when I was a kid, probably because now I’m older I can appreciate the adult content–and I’m not strictly talking fanservice–

Sorry about that.

We seem to have suffered a subliminal messaging hiccup.

(Code Geass is awesome!!!)

Anyway….

What with all of that and of WORK, I have been very remiss of late in updating my blog. But as I said in my previous post, I would be segueing from that into today’s topic surrounding J.K. Rowling’s having used a pseudonym, a fake name or “nom de plume” (hence the above title) for her crime novel, Cuckoo’s Calling.

A couple things that I can think of, drawn from what I’ve read on-line, as far as why she did this actually kind of tie-in with why she used just her initials and last name for the Harry Potter series. In the first place, after all the media attention with Harry Potter, it would make sense if she chose a nom de plume for a new book as a kind of shield from all of that. That and I’d also like to think that she wanted to give herself that sense of accomplishment again, that she managed to get something published without the aid of a name that’s gained celebrity status, as she was doing from her beginning as an unknown author with Harry Potter. With The Casual Vacancy, her first post-Potter novel, I don’t wonder if sales for it weren’t simply in part due to her being the author who penned Harry Potter, not so much because there was an interest in the story (although I will admit it did help that Harry Potter did draw an adult audience in the first place, otherwise I don’t think she could have jumped from something like that to The Casual Vacancy as she did). 

In addition to using the fake name, Robert Galbraith, for Cuckoo’s Calling as a way of giving herself a clean slate, there is the other matter of crime fiction tending to be a male-dominated genre (what’s new?). It’s uncannily similar to her publishers’ recommending that she use initials for her name on Harry Potter, so that boys won’t be turned off of reading it simply because it was written by a female author. Despite there being names out there like Sue Grafton and Ann Rule on the crime fiction circuit, male authors still get better credibility (and many of the female authors in crime fiction that people see started out with male pseudonyms of their own in order to sell their work).

But then we get to the fact that sales Cuckoo’s Calling definitely skyrocketed (if nothing more or less) once it was made known that Robert Galbraith was in fact J.K. Rowling. So now what I’m wondering is how this is all going to play out for the rest of Rowling’s writing career? Is there even a point in her trying to use a nom de plume, since clearly the truth of her identity might always be one of those juicy secrets that no one can keep padlocked tightly enough? I do like to think that she still might try to conceal everything behind a pseudonym (there are lots of authors who use pseudonyms even when everyone knows who they are, i.e. everyone knows Amanda Quick is Jane Anne Krentz, but she still uses that name for all of her romances that take place in historic settings). There’s a certain mystique to creating a living, breathing alter-ego (or as living, breathing as a name on the cover of a book can be). After all that’s part of the fun of being a vigilante hero–aside from wearing badass costumes in all their glorious badassery.

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Admittedly, I myself haven’t read Cuckoo’s Calling, and I’ve only peeked at a couple pages of The Casual Vacancy with no intention of actually reading it. Does that exempt me from being a hardcore fan? Well I suppose so, but I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. They simply aren’t books I’d personally read. But on the other hand, maybe I’m being a hypocrite, since I read David Thewlis’ book, The Late Hector Kipling, simply because he wrote it (although it was uniquely surreal and entertaining and I’ve really not read anything quite like it before).

And really my biggest reason for reading a book is based on whether or not the story is good. Just the same as I’m pretty open to any kind of music/band/singer/song as long as I like what it has to offer in terms of artistry (or if it’s got a good enough of a beat to hook me).

Maybe I’m thinking too much about this.

While I can’t say that Cuckoo’s Calling is on my possible reading list, The Casual Vacancy is still a possibility. For the moment though, I’ve got about thirty books sitting on a three-level shelf that I still need to read, plus I’ve still got Dan Brown’s Inferno in my Barnes & Noble bag in my car, not to mention the books I’ve got from the library so…it may be a while before I get to that.

In the meantime, if I don’t get a chance to before the day arrives, I wish you all a Happy Halloween!

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