10 Authors Who Write Under Different Pen Names
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 Bondage, written 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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