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10 Authors Who Write Under Different Pen Names

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by Sarah Dobbs

When you see a familiar author’s name on a book cover, you probably feel confident that you know what you’re getting. Most writers have a specific style and a genre that they return to over and over again. But what if a well-known author wants to write something completely different without alerting their fans? That's where pseudonyms come in. Here are 10 authors who also wrote under other names:

1. STEPHEN KING

King has penned more than 50 novels in his career, but that collection would be smaller if his early publishers had their way. According to his official website, authors in the '70s and '80s were encouraged to release one book per year in order to avoid saturating the market. To get around that restriction, King came up with a pseudonym: Richard Bachman.

Publishing as Bachman was also a test, of sorts. King wanted to know whether the success of his 1974 work Carrie was genuinely merited by his writing or just a result of the buzz created around the movie version of the story. Unfortunately for him, the experiment didn't last long. Readers noticed the similarities, and by the time he’d written a few Bachman books, the secret was out.

2. RICHARD MATHESON

Matheson also chose to distance himself from some of his work—but in his case, it was because he took issue with what editors or filmmakers had done with his work.

When his novel I Am Legend was adapted into the 1964 movie The Last Man On Earth, Matheson was so annoyed by changes to his screenplay that he asked to be credited as Logan Swanson. He repeated the trick when Playboy Press published a heavily edited version of his story Earthbound, and also reused the pseudonym for episodes he wrote for Combat! and The Twilight Zone.

3. J.K. ROWLING

For Rowling's second book aimed at adults, she chose to submit the draft to publishers without letting on that she was the one behind it. Instead, she picked a different moniker: Robert Galbraith, a combination of Robert F. Kennedy and Ella Galbraith, a name that Rowling admits she was fascinated with as a child. She fooled some. The Cuckoo’s Calling was rejected by a few publishers, but, like King's, Rowling's identity was quickly leaked. "Being Robert Galbraith was all about the work, which is my favourite part of being a writer," Rowling writes on her site. "Now, my cover has been blown, I plan to continue to write as Robert to keep the distinction from other writing and because I rather enjoy having another persona."

4. C.S. LEWIS

C.S. Lewis is best known for the series of children’s fantasy books The Chronicles Of Narnia. But before he released those, Lewis published several volumes of poetry under the name Clive Hamilton. The first collection, Spirits In Bondagewritten by a 20-year-old Lewis who had just returned from military service, went largely ignored. His second volume of poetry, Dymer, had a similar fate, and that failure put Lewis off writing much more poetry. It might also explain why his later books were attributed to C.S. Lewis.

Later, in 1961, Lewis used another pseudonym when he wrote A Grief Observed about the death of his wife. 'N. W. Clerk' wasn’t revealed to be Lewis until after his death in 1963.

5. JOYCE CAROL OATES

In the ‘80s, award-winning author Joyce Carol Oates wrote a short, experimental novel called Lives Of The Twins, and submitted it to publishers under the name Rosamond Smith. The book was accepted, but before it was even published, her cover was blown, leaving her editors and agents confused. After all, she’d already published more than 40 books in different genres under her birth name.

A chastened Oates told the New York Times that she had just been trying to get a fresh reading from critics, and vowed never to use a pseudonym again. She soon broke her promise, publishing a total of eight books under the Rosamond Smith moniker as well as another three novels as Lauren Kelly. Eventually, it was revealed that Rosamond Smith wasn’t her first pseudonym. She’d also published several stories under the name Rae Jolene Smith.

6. ISAAC ASIMOV

When science fiction writer Isaac Asimov started writing David Starr, Space Ranger, a YA sci-fi book that was going to be turned into a TV show, he chose a new name: Paul French.

Not familiar with that show? The TV series never actually happened, but Asimov went on to write a further five books in the Lucky Starr series. Eventually, he stopped being embarrassed about them, brought in his famous Three Laws Of Robotics, and admitted Paul French and Isaac Asimov were one and the same.

7. AGATHA CHRISTIE

Agatha Christie’s name is synonymous with mystery stories—you expect murders, detectives, and red herrings from her books. So when she wanted to write something different, she picked a new name: Mary Westmacott. According to Christie, it was less to do with targeting a different demographic and more about letting herself play with a new genre. Writing mysteries was her day job; writing romances was fun. Christie wrote six novels as Westmacott and kept her cover a secret for nearly two decades.

8. DEAN KOONTZ

New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz has admitted to writing under at least ten names. Throughout the 1970s, he published as many as eight books a year. Because his editors cautioned him against writing in different genres under the same name, he needed some alternative aliases. His alter-egos included Aaron Wolfe, Brian Coffey, David Axton, Deanna Dwyer, John Hill, K.R. Dwyer, Leigh Nichols, Anthony North, Owen West, and Richard Paige.

9. ANNE RICE

Under her own name, Anne Rice is known as the author of The Vampire Chronicles. But she has also penned works under two other names: A. N. Roquelaure, the author of four medieval erotic novels, and Anne Rampling, who wrote two erotic fiction novels.

10. MICHAEL CRICHTON

Michael Crichton is a pretty well-known name in the action/thriller/sci-fi genres, with many of his best-selling books having been turned into blockbusting movies. But when he was just starting out (and still at medical school) Crichton published his writing under pseudonyms.

Odds On, his first published novel, was attributed to John Lange; after several more books written as Lange, he published A Case Of Need under the name 'Jeffery Hudson'. The first time he actually used the name Michael Crichton was in 1969, for The Andromeda Strain. More Lange books followed, but Crichton eventually reverted to using his own name… though not before he published Dealing, a thriller co-written with his brother, under the name 'Michael Douglas'.

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10 Terrific Facts About Stephen King
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Scott Eisen/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

As if being one of the world's most successful and prolific writers wasn't already reason enough to celebrate, Stephen King is ringing in his birthday as the toast of Hollywood. As It continues to break box office records, we're digging into the horror master's past. Here are 10 things you might not have known about Stephen King, who turns 70 years old today.

1. STEPHEN KING AND HIS WIFE, TABITHA, OWN A RADIO STATION.

Stephen and Tabitha King own Zone Radio, a company that serves to head their three radio stations in Maine. One of them, WKIT, is a classic rock station that goes by the tagline "Stephen King's Rock Station."

2. HE'S A HARDCORE RED SOX FAN.

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Not only did he write a story about the Boston Red Sox—The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (who was a former Red Sox pitcher)—he also had a cameo in the Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore movie Fever Pitch, which is about a crazed Sox fan. He plays himself and throws out the first pitch at a game.

In 2004, King and Stewart O'Nan, another novelist, chronicled their reactions to the season that finally brought the World Series title back to Beantown. It's appropriately titled Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season.

3. HE WAS HIT BY A CAR, THEN BOUGHT THE CAR THAT HIT HIM.

You probably remember that King was hit by a van not far from his summer home in Maine in 1999. The incident left King with a collapsed lung, multiple fractures to his hip and leg, and a gash to the head. Afterward, King and his lawyer bought the van for $1500 with King announcing that, "Yes, we've got the van, and I'm going to take a sledgehammer and beat it!"

4. AS A KID, HIS FRIEND WAS STRUCK AND KILLED BY A TRAIN.

King's brain seems to be able to create chilling stories at such an amazing clip, yet he's seen his fair share of horror in real life. In addition to the aforementioned car accident, when King was just a kid his friend was struck and killed by a train (a plot line that made it into his story "The Body," which was adapted into Stand By Me). While it would be easy to assume that this incident informed much of King's writing, the author claims to have no memory of the event:

"According to Mom, I had gone off to play at a neighbor’s house—a house that was near a railroad line. About an hour after I left I came back (she said), as white as a ghost. I would not speak for the rest of the day; I would not tell her why I’d not waited to be picked up or phoned that I wanted to come home; I would not tell her why my chum’s mom hadn’t walked me back but had allowed me to come alone.

"It turned out that the kid I had been playing with had been run over by a freight train while playing on or crossing the tracks (years later, my mother told me they had picked up the pieces in a wicker basket). My mom never knew if I had been near him when it happened, if it had occurred before I even arrived, or if I had wandered away after it happened. Perhaps she had her own ideas on the subject. But as I’ve said, I have no memory of the incident at all; only of having been told about it some years after the fact."

5. HE WROTE A MUSICAL WITH JOHN MELLENCAMP.

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King, John Mellencamp, and T Bone Burnett collaborated on a musical, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which made its debut in 2012. The story is based on a house that Mellencamp bought in Indiana that came complete with a ghost story. Legend has it that three siblings were messing around in the woods and one of the brothers accidentally got shot. The surviving brother and sister jumped in the car to go get help, and in their panic, swerved off the road right into a tree and were killed instantly. Of course, the three now haunt the woods by Mellencamp's house.

6. HE PLAYED IN A BAND WITH OTHER SUCCESSFUL AUTHORS.

King played rhythm guitar for a band made up of successful writers called The Rock Bottom Remainders. From 1992 to 2012, the band "toured" about once a year. In addition to King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Barbara Kingsolver, Matt Groening and Ridley Pearson were just some of its other members.

7. HE'S A NATIVE MAINER.

A photo of Stephen King's home in Bangor, Maine.
By Julia Ess - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

King writes about Maine a lot because he knows and loves The Pine Tree State: he was born there, grew up there, and still lives there (in Bangor). Castle Rock, Derry, and Jerusalem's Lot—the fictional towns he has written about in his books—are just products of King's imagination, but he can tell you exactly where in the state they would be if they were real.

8. HE HAS BATTLED DRUG AND ALCOHOL PROBLEMS.

Throughout much of the 1980s, King struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. In discussing this time, he admitted that, "There's one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing at all. I don't say that with pride or shame, only with a vague sense of sorrow and loss. I like that book. I wish I could remember enjoying the good parts as I put them down on the page."

It came to a head when his family members staged an intervention and confronted him with drug paraphernalia they had collected from his trash can. It was the eye-opener King needed; he got help and has been sober ever since.

9. THERE WAS A RUMOR THAT HE WROTE A LOST TIE-IN NOVEL.

King was an avid Lost fan and sometimes wrote about the show in his Entertainment Weekly column, "The Pop of King." The admiration was mutual. Lost's writers mentioned that King was a major influence in their work. There was a lot of speculation that he was the man behind Bad Twin, a Lost tie-in mystery, but he debunked that rumor.

10. HE IS SURROUNDED BY WRITERS.

A photo of Stephen King's son, author Joe Hill
Joe Hill
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Stephen isn't the only writer in the King family: His wife, Tabitha King, has published several novels. Joe, their oldest son, followed in his dad's footsteps and is a bestselling horror writer (he writes under the pen name Joe Hill). Youngest child Owen has written a collection of short stories and one novella and he and his dad co-wrote Sleeping Beauties, which will be released later this month (Owen also married a writer). Naomi, the only King daughter, is a minister and gay activist.

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Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.

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