My Name Is “Author”


When I was a little girl I thought my name was Annie. This is because, in my vulnerable youth, my mother sagely thought that “Hildred” was too hard for other children (and apparently myself!) to say, and when SHE was little there was a “really nice, sweet girl named Annie, so I’ve always liked that name” (I’m named after my mother’s mother). So when I was in preschool, all of my play/classmates called me by “Annie”. It was the first name I learned how to spell and I still have Picasso-worthy paintings from that era with “ANNIE” scribbled on the bottom.

Imagine my surprise when I reached kindergarten and my mother decided that everyone was allowed to call me “Hildred”.

The hell? What happened to Annie? Amazingly,  I took it with stride. I was a really optimistic, no1curr little girl and everything was constantly changing around me anyway. Why shouldn’t my name? My classmates, however (I come from a town of 1000 people. I went to the public kindergarten with the same kids I went to the Zion Church preschool with) had no idea what the heck was going on. Many still called me Annie, much to our teachers’ confusion. It wasn’t until elementary school that everyone knew my name was Hildred.*

For the longest time I kind of resented my name. It was old, kinda stuffy, and everyone mistakenly called me either Mildred or Hilda or Hilary (or Hildegarde! Ack!) anyway. I’ve always hated nicknames since the Annie debacle so I always forced people to call me by my real name. The only thing I had going for me was that I’ve always been an “old soul” so even as a kid my name kinda fit me.  No one thought of my name as “old” except me…mostly because no one had ever heard it before.

Now I love my name. I can’t imagine being named anything else (including Annie, thanks mom.) I love the classic uniqueness to it (seriously, never met another Hildred before that wasn’t my grandmother, and I get to be “hildred” at just about every social media site. And I get LIVID when somebody in TV credits has my name, haha! It’s mine! There can only be one!) and just the overall way it sounds. It’s a very strong name. The original Germanic meaning is either “war councilor” or “virgin warrior” depending on who you source. I prefer the latter one. That way I can tell Japanese people my name means Sailor Moon. Either way I’m gonna kick your ass.

Combined with my last name and I have a great, balanced name. When I was a kid (again!) my mother remarried and my step-father offered to legally adopt me, but that meant changing my last name! Oh no! I was too attached to it even then. I’ve always loved the look and sound of “Hildred Billings” even when I hated the first name. Even before I a devout queer feminist I always said “screw it, if I marry a dude, I ain’t changing my name! No one’s last name is as good as mine with Hildred!”.

Then I became a serious author.

And what do you know? I have no desire to use a pen name, because my name is just so “authory”, or so I’ve always thought. Even better that I write fantasy and romance ahead of everything else. Don’t you want to read a fantasy book by “Hildred Billings”? Go ahead. Say it out loud. It’s awesome.

I would take this moment to thank my mother for having the foresight to give me such an authory name, but I ask you again to look at my name. Hildred Billings. Do you know what kids called me when I was little once they learned my real name? If you answered with “Hill Billy”, you may have gone to school with me.

*Fun story. On my high school graduation we were all sitting around in our caps and gowns reminiscing about preschool (yup, small town!) when a boy said “Remember Annie? I had such a crush on her!” Oh my God the look on his face when I said that was me, bwahahaha!)

How do you feel about your real name in conjunction with being a writer?