It has been big news in the book world that J.K. Rowling has published a book under the name of Robert Galbraith. the critics were impressed by Galbraith's "debut novel". The Cuckoo’s Calling (M) is a detective novel that some publishers initially rejected. Big mistake! Now that the cat is out of the bag (so to speak) the world is clamoring to get their hands on this book. The main character, Cormoran Strike, has been compared to a cross between Hagrid and Lupin of Harry Potter fame. He is a shaggy oversized private detective with a brilliant mind and wreck of a personal life. Mind you that sounds like a lot of mystery main characters. But Rowling has written someone that is fully realized, not just a cartoon stereotype.
Just like the novels she is famous for, Rowling provides twists and turns in The Cuckoo’s Calling that are down right magical. And to keep the theme of this blog in perspective J.K. is not her real name. Her publisher wasn’t sure that the intended readers of the Potter books (pre-adolescent boys) would read a book written by woman. They asked her to use her initials’. Since Rowling did not have a middle name she borrowed her grandmother’s name, Kathleen, to get her pen name J.K. Rowling.
Stephen King is another author who chose to write under a different name, Richard Bachman (M). If I remember correctly, his reasoning was that his publisher wanted to slow down the number of book published at one time. He got the alias from a Bachman Turner Overdrive record that was playing at the time and from a Richard Stark book he was reading. For those who do not know Richard Stark is a pseud. for Donald E. Westlake. I find this funny now as James Patterson’s publisher does not seem to have that problem. Anyway, King’s reaction to Rowling’s foray is “Jo is right about one thing – what a pleasure, what a blessed relief, to write in anonymity, just for the joy of it. Now that I know, I can’t wait to read the book.” I wonder how many people will react the same way. King also stated that Paul McCarthy suggested that the Beatles try playing as Randy and the Raiders, coming on stage in masks and such. John laughed it off by stating “They’d know who it was as soon as we opened our mouths.”
Some other authors who have chosen other names are:
Lewis Carroll was originally Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. He came up with this alias by latinizing Chalres Lutwidge into Carolus Ludovicus, loosely Anglicizing that name and reversing the order to make it Lewis Carroll.
Joseph Conrad also anglicized his Polish name of Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski.
Pablo Neruda is the alias for Ricardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto. His father disapproved of a career in literature. In publishing his poetry he chose to honor Czech poet Jan Neruda by choosing Pablo Neruda, which he later took as his legal name.
Stan Lee, of comic book fame, was named Stanley Martin Lieber. He hoped to one day publish serious literary works and wanted to save his real name for that. He has become world famous for this “kids’ stuff” and eventually took Stan Lee as his legal name.
Recently deceased Iain Banks wrote science fiction under the name of Iain M. Banks.
Mark Twain was the alias of Samuel Langhorne Clemens.
I am sure that there are many other authors writing under different names for many different reasons. I have always been fascinating with names of things, especially music bands. So what do you think you would rename yourself, Dear Reader?