This update comes in two sections: The breakthrough, and the branding.
FIRST! The breakthrough! Tuesday I talked a little about my recent “series” naming escapades. I was worried I wouldn’t come up with anything. Or that anything I came up with was thoughtless, meaningless, and there just for the sake of being there. While this mini-series in the realm of lesbian romance (in Japan, no less) is set in the same universe as the overarching CROSS// series I’m working on, it features minor characters who are, for the most part, ignorant to the fantasy of the universe. They’re just everyday people leading everyday lives. Thus I was stuck on what to name the “mini-series” within the series. On one hand it’s meant to exist on its own, but it’s also tied to the main universe. I don’t want to haphazardly slap the “CROSS//” label on it other than as an aside, so I needed to come up with something else.
Tonight, I was plowing through my online dictionary and came upon a couple words I never even considered before. I knew I wanted something “Japanese” to reflect the story titles, but in this case I didn’t care if it was complicated Japanese so long as it was still catchy to readers who didn’t know any Japanese outside of “Tokyo” and “Honda”. (Sometimes I lose touch, considering I’ve been studying the language for over ten years now.) And what do you know. The words I found? Perfect! I’m still stewing them over and a couple alternates for now until I make any for-sure announcements on the new mini-series name. So look forward to it! (And learning some Japanese, apparently.)
SECOND! I’ve been spending some time lately considering the concept of “branding”, specifically, my name as an author. It’s always been my intention to go by my birth name, which I do here, because I love my name and I’ve always felt it was unique enough while still retaining a certain “authoryness”. And I do intend to write under both my main planned series (CROSS// and, later on in the next decade, Nagnomei) with my name “Hildred Billings”. But then one of my friends pointed out that my planned debut at this point is rather, erm ~controversial~. (Gasp! Two lesbians in a long-term relationship?! And they have sex?! GOOD LORD. Buy me a new string of pearls because I’ve over-clutched the ones I have now!) And as somebody currently trying to find even a part time job to make loan bills add up, I may be shooting myself in the foot should potential employers google me and see my steamy cover I plan on releasing next month. This did give me pause. Now, obviously I don’t give a rat’s toot if an author uses a pen name for these reasons, even to keep their genres separate, but it’s never been something I’ve considered. I hate aliases (for myself). Even my long-standing Internet name “Calico” doesn’t get considered when it comes to my writing career!
But then I realized – darnit, it doesn’t matter. Since this series takes place in the same universe as CROSS// (and features some of the same characters!) I can’t exactly use a different name if only to save myself the headache of people saying “hey wait a minute…is this fanfiction? Does Hildred know about this?!” Could you just imagine? And then there’s the other thing…I’ve been building up a name for “Hildred Billings” for the past few years. And I don’t care if family members see what “Hildred Billings” has been up to. Most of them know I’m queer as sin (even if some may be in denial) and I’m not exactly in the closet anywhere in the world. The worst that can happen is a potential employer looks me up and says “what.”, but since I don’t plan on a career with children, I’m going to go with “I’m not working for anybody who has a problem with who I am anyway.”
Phew. Well, those are all the thoughts swarming around my head these past couple of days. No pen name over here. The only reason why I ever would use one is if it was a safety measure, which I don’t count a lesbian romance as in my neck of the woods, as backwards as I sometimes think this place is. And I may have a series name! Goodness.
How about y’all? Do you use a pen name? Why or why not?