Yves Brown McClain: Literary Fierceness

Say my name, say my name…

Posted by Dahlia on February 21, 2011

…no seriously, just try pronouncing it. I am confident that nine out of 10 will not get it right. Every version of my name you can think of, I’ve heard it. My name has been the source of confusion for many and exasperation for me through the years. Having to constantly correct people, albeit gently (I know it’s a tough name), can get a little frustrating.  The first day of school was always a blast as I would wonder just how the teacher would butcher my name that year. If the teacher or professor hesitated, I knew he or she had gotten to me. In most cases, they just don’t bother and go straight to my last name. (“Umm, McClain?”) I have scratched out my name and written in the phonetic spelling at ceremonies, I’ve cringed at the mention of my name in obituaries, family members have come to my aid to make sure it was said the right way, my husband has told people who have called and messed up my name that “I don’t know anyone with that name that lives here”. The oddest screw up of my name to this date is “Ivy” and it happened on two different occasions. I don’t know how these folks pulled Ivy out, but it is what it is I guess. I now have a friend who calls me “Ivy” to this day as an inside joke.

All this name-butchering business made me seriously consider a pen name. In my twisted imagination, the scene goes like so: an avid reader is in a bookstore and only has enough money for one book. She picks up my book and a book by Jane Smith. Both covers look great. She flips it over and the summary is intriguing on both stories. Both books are roughly the same length. Both books are the same price. She turns the book back over; her face scrunches up in confusion as she trips over my name. (“What the…?”)  She tosses my book away in favor of the author whose name she can pronounce. **end scene**

My cover to Wild Oats has the pen name I decided on. I made an email account up, and even went so far to buy the domain, just in case. However, as I sat in class one night, I realized that the pen name didn’t feel right. It felt like I was hiding or living a double life, one as the wife/mother/employee/student and one as “The Writer”, like it was some sort of secret identity or alter ego. I am way too busy with one life to even attempt living a second.  So, I tossed the pen name in favor of my “government” name. Besides, isn’t a pen name pointless if your face is plastered on the back cover, on facebook, twitter, and this blog?

Pen names are cool and there are many reasons why a writer would choose one.

  • If he/she writes in more than one genre for example.
  • The writer wants to be gender neutral. 
  • The writer’s given name is a common one
  • The writer’s real name is the same or very close to another author’s.
  • The writer wants to be one of the first names to be displayed in the store or index, so she intentionally uses a last name that begins with “A”.
  • The writer wishes to tell-all or bash family, friends, coworkers, etc. and keep anonymity (that writer, by the way, is just begging for a defamation lawsuit…)
  • Or in my case, you just want a name people can pronounce.

I’m curious as to how many of my fellow writers are using pseudonyms. Is there a reason why you use one? For the real-name users, how do you feel about pen names?

Added: Thanks to fellow crusader Elizabeth Twist for giving me a few more reasons to use pen names that I’d forgotten about. 🙂


20 Responses to “Say my name, say my name…”

  1. Trisha said

    I would assume you say your name like “Eve”.

    As for pen names, I’ve considered it, as my name just doesn’t sound like a writerly name to my own ears. 😛

  2. I think pen names are fine. I may utilize one if I decide to write in a genre other than sci-fi and poetry, which is a given as I am considering writing thrillers as well.

  3. roguemutt said

    I can’t think of a scenario where I’d need to know how to pronounce your name. It’s not like we’re going to talk over the phone.

    You’d be surprised how many people get “Rogue Mutt” wrong though. Lots of people type “Rouge” which gives it a whole different ring.

  4. I thought “Yves” was “Eve.” Credit the French lessons we anglo-Canucks have the benefit of receiving in school. I think its pretty obvious I’m using a pseudonym. My reason is the opposite of yours: my real name is super common – not Jane Smith, but pretty darned close. Both halves are forgettable and already out there in print in various combinations. Plus I’ve always been amused by writers – Wrath James White; Gris Grimly; Lemony Snickett; who publish under awesome, larger than life names. Why not me?

    • It’s a french name and it surprises me that a lot of ppl don’t know that, especially because of yves st. laurent or that yvette and yvonne are really similar…and I forgot to list having a common real name or a name too similar to another writer in my reasons. Those are also good reasons for pseudonyms…may need to modify this post later to include.

  5. Anica Grey said

    Wow, great post. I have been pondering this very thing. By the way, Anica Grey is my pen name. Although people always mispronounce it. Ah-nee-ka instead of Ah-nick-ah. Me thinks I’ve made a mistake, lol. I love my real first name, my real last name just makes it sound so plain. I don’t know, you might see me listed as someone else one day.

    To tell you the truth, I would definitely read a book from someone with a difficult name to pronounce; it’s all about the story for me.

  6. I don’t know how people can mess it up… Your name is easy to say, well I think it is.

  7. I like Yves. I think it’s a pretty name.

    As far as pseudonyms go, I can see using one if you’re name is super common or there’s already an author out there with your name (a lot of actors/actresses do this), or if you’re writing outside of your genre (to retain your author brand), but otherwise. I don’t know. I guess I’m not a fan.

  8. I’ve considered using a pseudonym because I wasn’t sure people could easily say my name, but given that I intentionally chose to have this last name (I took my wife’s name when we got married), I’ll stick with it.

    Besides, your full name looks awesome written out, and such awesomeness should show up on a cover someday.

  9. Donea Lee said

    Ah! I so feel your pain. I’ve lived with this my entire life, too. Everyone seems to think I’m misspelling “Donna”. Um, no. There is an “e” in there. I had a gym teacher in jr. high resort to calling me “Donut”. Not a particularly flattering name for a teenage girl, but… People have put m’s, r’s, and t’s in my name… no clue. I thought about a pen name at one point – but, then I decided to bank on the fact that my name in unique and hopefully people would remember it because of that. 🙂 Fellow crusader here! I don’t have a twitter account, but would love to follow you. Is it by e-mail subscription, then?

    • Wow, donut, huh? I once knew an elderly man who couldn’t pronounce my name so he decided to call me “Wee-wee.” I don’t take kindly too being referred to with the same nickname as a little boy’s privates. I don’t care how old you are, some things are just unacceptable. So, old man and I had a hooked on phonics session right then and there.

      By the way…yes, you can sign up by email…I’m going to work on getting one of those widgets. I don’t think WordPress will use the Google Connect, so I may try the Networked widget.

  10. Gina Blechman said

    I also assumed it was pronounced Eve, so either our 2 out of 12 has screwed up your percentage, or we’re just smarter than the rest of the world. (Both possible.) Personally, I think you have a beautiful name. As hard as it can be to learn people’s names sometimes, particularly when they’re super ethnic names, I think it adds a certain originality to each person. I would rather read a book from an Yves than a Jane.

    • I will agree with both 🙂 I was thinking that maybe only writers get the name thing as most of you have guessed correctly.
      And thanks for the compliment. I really do like my name, I appreciate the uniqueness of it…not too many girls with a man’s french name walking around that I know of…

  11. Kari Marie said

    I’ve considered publishing under a pen name, and then I went and started my blog with my real one (slaps forehead).

    So, at some point I’m going to have to start a blog for the other name, but I guess that won’t be necessary until I finish my book.

  12. […] 27, 2011 In the past week I have to given you my two cents on pen names and sharing WIPs, lied to you, made you guess the driver of a VW Beetle, signed up for another […]

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