10 Famous Authors Who Wrote Under Pen Names
Writing a book is quite an achievement and most people would be proud to have their name listed as the author. However, there are a few authors who, for various reasons, decided not to use their own names on their books. For some authors it was a way to get a fresh start and reinvent themselves without being tied to past success while others simply wanted to ensure that their gender would not be a factor in how their books are judged.
1. Stephen King
When horror maestro Stephen King started attaining success he was eager to write more books. Unfortunately, publishers at the time thought that one book a year was more than enough for an author and any more would oversaturate the brand. Instead of accepting this limitation King instead adopted the pen name Richard Bachman to write more than one book a year. The pen name is a combination of Richard Stark and Bachman Turner Overdrive, which King came up with on the fly while on the phone with his publisher. A bookstore clerk eventually caught on to the fact that the writing style of King and Bachman were very similar and the ruse was uncovered. King confirmed the connection and promptly declared that Bachman had died of "cancer of the pseudonym."
2. J. K. Rowling
Author Joanne Rowling adopted the more masculine sounding pen name, J.K Rowling, when writing the Harry Potter series of books. Her publishers were afraid that young boys would not want to read the books if they knew the author was a woman, so she used her initial instead of full name and added the fabricated "K" for good measure. After concluding the Harry Potter series she once again adopted a pen name, Robert Galbraith, for her detective story The Cuckoo's Calling. However, much to the authors disappointment it was soon discovered that she wrote the book and not a former member of the Royal Military Police as it was marketed. The book was the authors first aimed at adults and to supposed to be published without expectation or hype, but since the discovery of her pen name sales have skyrocketed.
3. Dr. Seuss
Theodor Geisel worked for Jack-O-Lantern magazine as editor-in-chief until they fired him for breaking the law during prohibition with one of his parties. Undetered he continued writing for the magazine using his middle name, Seuss, to fool the administration. He went on to become one of the most succesful children's authors of all time and added "Dr." to his pen name because his father would have liked him to follow a career in medicine instead of writing. Geisel also used the pen name LeSieg, which is of course his surname spelled backwards, for books he wrote and others illustrated. For a book he wrote in collaboration with another author he chose the pen name Rosetta Stone.
4. Agatha Christie
Mention the name Agatha Christie and most people immediately think of murder mysteries, such as And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express. Christie knew this all too well, which is why she chose the pen name Mary Westmacott when she started dabbling in romance novels. According to Chrstie her day job was writing mysteries, but she wrote the romances for fun. Christie managed to write four novels using her pen name before her fans caught on to the truth, but this didn't stop her from writing two more as Mary Westmacott.
5. Dean Koontz
For some authors one or even two pen names are more than enough, but not for Dean Koontz. This prolific author faced the same problem as Stephen King when he was told that writing more than one book a year, especially in different genres, was a bad idea. Undeterred he adopted at least ten different pen names and went on to publish up to eight books a year during the 1970s. Some of his pen names include Anthony North, Richard Paige, David Axton, Aaron Wolfe and a host of others. According to Koontz he only used ten pen names, but fans have long suspected that the author might be behind even more books written under different names.
6. Michael Crichton
His name is synonymous with action, science fiction and thrillers such as Jurassic Park, Congo, Sphere and Timeline, but before his books were adapted to blockbuster movies Michael Crichton wrote under a few pen names. He wrote one of his books with his younger brother Douglas and the two decided on Michael Douglas as a shared pen name. Chrichton began writing novels while still in medical school and adopted the pen name John Lange in reference to the fact that he was already exceptionally tall. He continued this trend with the pen name Jeffrey Hudson, which is a reference to the famous 17th-century dwarf.
7. Ann Rice
Ann Rice, author of the famous Vampire Chronicles books adopted a few different pen names over her career. In fact, Ann Rice is actually one of her pen names as her real name is Howard Allen Frances O'Brien. When she decided to take a break from her usual vampire books she adopted the pen name A. N. Roquelaure and wrote four medieval erotic novels. She wrote a further two erotic novels, exploring the darker side of sex and romance, using the pen name Anne Rampling.
8. Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov had already made a name for himself in the science fiction genre with books like Nightfall, Foundation and I, Robot. However, when he was asked to write a science-fiction novel that will be turned into a television series he was a bit hesitant to use his own name. Television shows of the time where in his opinion uniformly awful, so for his Lucky Starr books he adopted the pen name Paul French. The television show never materialized, but Asimov wrote a further six novels as French. When he grew tired of the ruse he started leaving clues in the books that eventually caused people to discover his true identity.
9. C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis made a name for himself with his christian themed Chronicles of Narnia books, but before converting to christianity he also wrote plenty of poetry. These poetry volumes were published under the pen name Clive Hamilton, but failed to garner much attention or acclaim. After the passing of his wife Lewis used the pen name N. W. Clerk to write about her death in A Grief Observed. It was only after his own death that the book was re-published under his real name.
10. Mark Twain
Most readers know the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as Mark Twain, but this was actually a pen name. The authors real name is Samuel Langhorne Clemens and he based his pen name on the phrase used to describe water that is 2 fathoms deep and thus safe to travel by steamboat.