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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Who's Who Among Writers by Joan Reeves

Most readers know that many authors write under pseudonyms. Writers do this for various reasons.

Publisher Pressure

Sometimes publishers request it. Until recent years, Harlequin always wanted authors to be published under a pseudonym that they controlled. Often, this was a detriment to the authors who could not "take" their pseudonym to other publishing houses.

Many times, publishers made authors take pseudonyms if their previous sales under a different name weren't as good as the publisher wishes. With a new name, they could launch the author as "a new name in fiction" or something similar, even though the author in question may have written and published dozens of books.

If an author wanted to write in a different genre, the publisher often required them to publish in the other genre under a different name for marketing purposes. The thinking was that a known romance author would alienate her readers if she published horror, or that horror readers wouldn't give her a chance if she was known to be a romance author.

Privacy Issues

Sometimes, authors prefer to use a pseudonym to protect their privacy. Taking a pseudonym in this age where privacy and security are relevant concerns is certainly understandable. Sometimes, authors just don't want to have to defend what they write to their neighbors, church friends, their kids' teachers, or even relatives.

Many times, a pseudonym is used for a short period of time and then abandoned. This happens because one name becomes predominantly successful so the others aren't used or publishing contracts expire, lines fold, etc. There are many reasons why names get abandoned.

What Happened To What's-His-Name

Readers may find themselves wondering what happened to some of their favorite authors like Billie Douglass or Owen West or any of the other popular genre fiction writers. In actuality, Ms. Douglass is doing just fine living her life as Barbara Delinsky, and Mr. West is living quite well as Dean Koontz.

For your entertainment, and for you masters of trivia, here are some popular pseudonyms by well-known authors.


Amanda Ashley is the fabulous Madeline Baker. Mystery novelist Jill Churchill is Janice Young Brooks. Candace Camp is Lisa Gregory, Kristin James, and Sharon Stephens. Janet Evanovich of Stephanie Plum fame wrote under Steffie Hall. Diana Palmer is Susan Kyle. Amanda Quick, Amanda Glass, Jayne Castle, Jayne Taylor, Jayne Bentley, and Stephanie James are all Jayne Anne Krentz.

If you're a true Nora Roberts fan, then you know that Nora, J. D. Robb, Sarah Hardesty, and Roberts Smith are all personas of Eleanor Wilder.

The aforementioned Dean Koontz wrote as David Axton, Brian Coffey, K. R. Dwyer, John Hill, Anthony North, Richard Paige, Own West, Aaron Wolfe, and, oh, yes, Leigh Nichols and Deanne Dwyer.

William E. Butterworth III is also known as W.E.B. Griffin, W.E. Butterworth, Webb Beech, Edmund O. Scholefield, Patrick Williams, Alex Baldwin, Walter Blake, James Douglas, Jack Dugan, John K. Dugin, and Blakely St. James. Oh, he was also a she as in Eden Hughes and Allison Mitchell.

If you think that's a lot of names and authorial identities to remember, take a look at Spur Award Winner Robert Vaughan who has written about 250 books under 35 different names.

Even Agatha Christie published under the pen names Mary Westmacott and Agatha Christie Mallowan. In real life, Louis L'Amour was born Louis Dearborn LaMoore so he edited his name and became a literary phenom.

Post Script

Maybe that new author you're reading is really just an old favorite in disguise.

(Joan Reeves is a Kindle bestselling author of romantic comedy. Her books are available at all major ebook sellers and in audio from Audible.com and iTunes. Joan publishes Writing Hacks, a free newsletter for writers. For articles about the art, craft, and business of writing and the world of books, visit Joan's website  and SlingWords, her blog.


  1. What a fun post. And here I thought that Nora's real name was Nora Roberts and her pen name JD Robb.

  2. Very interesting, enjoyed the post!

  3. Joan, what an interesting post. I used to love the books by Kathleen Kane, then she disappeared. I wondered if she had died or what, then learned she now writes as Maureen Childs in a slightly different subgenre of romance.

    1. I've had the same experience with authors published long ago by the category romance lines. They all had pen names like Nora -- so did Sandra Brown.