The Real Names of 18 Authors Known by Initials
Want to be an author? You should probably think about going by your first and middle initials. A surprising number of writers have struck literary gold while remaining semi-anonymous by using initials instead of full names. Here are a handful of them - and some of the reasons why they opted to drop their given names.
1. E.B. White – Elwyn Brooks
2. A.A. Milne – Alan Alexander
3. C.S. Lewis – Clive Staples. Apparently Lewis (pictured) never liked his given name. It’s often said that he assumed the name of a beloved dog named Jacksie after it was hit by a car, but his brother has a different story to tell about how the name came to be:
Then, in the course of one holiday, my brother made the momentous decision to change his name. Disliking "Clive", and feeling his various baby-names to be beneath his dignity, he marched up to my mother, put a forefinger on his chest, and announced "He is Jacksie". he stuck to this next day and thereafter, refusing to anwer to any other name: Jacksie it had to be, a name contracted to Jacks and then to Jack. So to his family and his intimate friends, he was Jack for life: and Jack he will be for the rest of this book.
4. H.G. Wells – Herbert George
5. H.P. Lovecraft – Howard Phillips
6. J.D. Salinger – Jerome David. As a kid, however, most people called him “Sonny.”
7. F. Scott Fitzgerald – Francis. Actually, it was Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, and no, the name wasn’t a coincidence. He was named after that Francis Scott Key, the one who wrote The Star Spangled Banner. They were second cousins, three times removed.
8. S.E. Hinton – Susan Eloise. The Outsiders author used initials instead of her full name on the advice of her publisher. Her publisher didn’t want reviewers to skew one way or another based on Hinton’s sex.
9. J.K. Rowling - Joanne K. The billionaire author had a reason somewhat similar to S.E. Hinton’s - she didn’t want boys to pass up Harry Potter because it was written by a woman.
10. E.E. Cummings – Edward Estlin. I had always heard that Cummings insisted on using lowercase letters for his initials, but according to his widow, that was a myth.
11. L.M. Montgomery – Lucy Maud. The Anne of Green Gables author loathed her first name and insisted on being called Maud by friends and family. Sounds kind of similar to Anne with an “e” being “so much more distinguished,” don’t you think?
12. W.B. Yeats - William Butler
13. T.S. Eliot - Thomas Stearns
14. L. Frank Baum – Lyman. As is the case with several of these examples, the man who created a character named Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, simply didn’t care for his given name.
15. P.G. Wodehouse - Pelham Grenville. I’m guessing there are a couple of reasons he went with P.G., the least of which is that “Pelham Grenville Wodehouse” takes up a lot of real estate on book covers.
16. W.H. Auden - Wystan Hugh
17. J.M. Barrie - James Matthew
18. J.R.R. Tolkien - John Ronald Reuel. But you probably already knew that. As a child, his family called him Ronald.
For the bonus round, here are the wordier names of a few non-writers:
B.B. King – Riley B. King. In case you’re wondering how the blues great gets that first “B” with a name like Riley, well, “B.B.” is short for “Blues Boy."
D.L. Hughley is really Darryl Lynn, k.d. lang was once Kathryn Dawn, C. Thomas Howell’s parents named him Christopher, the “J” in J. Paul Getty stood for John, the “J” in J. Edgar Hoover stood for John, and M.C. Escher is a mouthful: Maurits Cornelis.