Saturday, August 19, 2017

What's In A Name? Guest Post by V.M. Escalada

 by Vicki Delany

One of my closest writer friends isn’t a mystery writer, but the fantasy author Violette Malan. Or is that really her name?  Read on to find out.

So I'm in my brother's bookstore, and I'm looking for my latest book, and I'm not finding it. Just as I'm thinking "oh really?" it strikes me that I'm looking for the wrong name.

I'm not sure how much of a secret it is, but besides being Violette Malan, who writes sword and sorcery fantasy, I'm also V.M. Escalada, who writes epic fantasy. I have to admit that when my agent first suggested I use a penname, my immediate reaction was unfavourable. There are all kinds of reasons for such a suggestion, however, change of genre and change of gender being two of the most common. What people don't often talk about, however, is the practical experience of being two people.

To start with, I was a little flustered. I had plenty of questions, and no one – it seemed – to go to for answers. Don't get me wrong, my agent, and my editor, had plenty of helpful suggestions, just not for these actual, practical, concerns.

My first concern? What explanation do I give people who know me, personally? After all, people who have never met/heard of Violette Malan, aren't likely to ask. The short answer, by the way, is "it's a marketing thing." The long answer is, as they say, beyond the scope of this enquiry..

Which brings me to my second concern: Who am I in public? At a con, for example? The easy answer is: I'm whoever was invited. That's the name that will go first on the con badge. It's not at all unusual, at cons, to see people with two names on their badges, the one who was invited, and (sometimes in brackets or in smaller print) the other one. If you weren't invited as a special guest? If you're just registered as a regular panelist? That's when it gets tricky. Do you use the established, familiar name? or the new one?

I haven't had to answer that one yet, but I'm thinking those marketing people are going to want me to emphasize the name of the author whose book just came out. 

But how do I become a second person? What would I use for a photo? A bio? This is the point at which it struck me that this could be a lot of fun. After all, I make people up for a living, don't I? Not that I can become entirely someone else. Again, people who already know me would have to be able to recognize me. I'm not becoming a different person, I'm becoming a second person. I can't dress entirely differently because, first, I can't afford all those new clothes and, second, I've already bought the stuff I look good in.  I'm not going for frumpy, no matter what the marketing people say.

But I will need a new autograph, won't I? At least I know which name to sign, right? The signature has to match the name on the cover, right? That feels right to me, I could be in a situation where the person asking for the autograph only knows the author standing in front of her. It gets more complicated when the person knows both of you. How personal do you make a personalized signature? Do you sign both names? On the same page? Family's easy. Family doesn't care how you sign the book as long as you sign it, and they can leave it lying around to impress their friends with – something the Escalada part of my family can now do more easily than before.

I admit, I don't really have an answer for the autograph issue. Maybe you can help me out?      


Violette Malan is the author of the Dhulyn and Parno series of sword and sorcery adventures (now available in omnibus editions),  as well as the Mirror Lands series of primary world fantasies. As VM Escalada, she writes the Faraman Prophecy series. Book One, Halls of Law, is available now. Find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @VioletteMalan.

1 comment:

Sybil Johnson said...

You bring up a lot of interesting points about a pen name. I only use my "real" name for books and short stories for the moment. But, who knows, maybe I'll end up with a pen name in the future. I guess I would sign whatever name is on the book no matter who the person is who is receiving the signature. I'd be afraid, though, that I'd forget who I was!