Every few years I have a re-think on whether or not I should write pseudonymously; each time I reach a firm conclusion—sometimes affirmative, and sometimes not—yet the question still haunts me with a peculiar gravity, and no matter how certain I am of the right answer for me, it’s a question I seem unable to escape.
The oracle of our times has a lot to say on the matter, some of it perfunctory, some of it critically noncommittal, but none of it definitive, and all of it reeking with subjectivity. Of course, taking a new name is a very personal act, akin to walking into a shop and choosing a new face. It’s as much an admission that your own name doesn’t fit with your words, as it is an acknowledgement that your name might somehow weigh down your writing. It feels dangerously close to admitting that you yourself, don’t fit your own words. And once you’ve used one pseudonym, will you ever feel comfortable writing under your own name? Indeed, once you’ve used one pseudonym, what’s to stop you from using another? And another? Why would any self-respecting writer go through the palaver?
It’s tempting to think writing under someone else’s name somehow abrogates you from authorial responsibility, but, the truth is, it fills you with a sense of brooding complicity. If writing under your own name is a prayer to honesty, then writing under a pseudonym adds a new, furtive dimension to the proceedings, as though you’ve introduced a fictional partner in crime to the otherwise wholesome pursuit of writing.
However, even though writing under a nom de plume is entangled with an intractable mesh of complex psychological issues, there’s still some great reasons to consider it. For a start, a pseudonym gives writers a frame, allowing us to slip into and out of writerly habits as and when we see fit. It’s also not escaped my notice there’s a lot of Mark Easton’s out there, and given there’s even a well known BBC journalist rocking my name, I can’t help but feel I need to put some distance between my writing and my birth name.
Of course, if deciding on a pseudonym were easy, perhaps the question would answer itself, but branding your writing with a new name is difficult. I once went as far as trying the Name Generator, but I can’t, in all honesty, believe anyone wants to read the writings of Marcello Mars or Elizabeth Badger?
So, until such a time that a suitable pseudonym jumps up, grabs my pen, and writes my next novel, I’m going to consign myself to the netherworld of pseudonymous perplexity. Because, even if I finally make a decision one way or the other, I’m sure that if there’s a heaven for authors, then there’s a hell filled with their pseudonymous selves, all caught in the throes of a black mass, and worshipping wildly the beast with 1,000 names.