Pen Names Anyone? by Rebecca Talley

LDSP Note: I can’t believe I forgot to post Rebecca’s guest blog last week! Soooo sorry. And it’s a good one too. Enjoy!

There seems to be two camps on pen names. Those who think an author should use his/her real name no matter what he/she writes and the other camp that believes when an author switches genres, he/she should have a different name distinguishing each genre.

I’ve published three novels for the LDS market. My current book is a young adult urban fantasy targeted at the national market. It has no LDS content or characters so I’m wondering if I should publish it under a pen name.

I’ve spent years trying to develop an online presence with my blog and website. I’ve made a lot of Facebook friends and have Twitter followers. It boggles my mind to think about replicating that with a whole new persona. And then trying to keep up with both “people” with my social networks—makes me exhausted just thinking about it.

On the other hand, would a reader who expected an LDS novel from me be upset with a book that’s about a teenage girl who fights demons?

Other authors have used pen names. Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, J.K. Rowling, Sierra St. James/C.J. Hill/Janette Rallison, Jeff Savage/J. Scott Savage, to name a few. They’ve all been successful with their pen names and it doesn’t seem to be an issue that people know these authors use pen names.

It makes sense to separate different genres under different author names. Readers would then know that even if this is the same author, books written under one name will be thrillers, while under a different name the books will be romantic comedies.

When I first started writing, the advice was to stick with one genre (thus removing the reason for needing a pen name) and build up a readership in that genre. (As an aside, I’ve noticed in my experience that while LDS fiction may be a genre, there are many sub-genres within it, and romance seems to be very popular). That advice is great, IF you want to keep writing in one genre. For me, I have to write the story that’s burning inside me. If all my stories were romance, that’d be one thing, but so far that hasn’t been true. Forcing myself to write another romance to build up my readership in that genre (since it’s very popular) would take the joy out of writing. Since I have the attention span of a three-year-old (which is why I teach the Sunbeams), I have to write what is inside my head trying to claw its way out.

So, what do you think? Should authors who write different genres use pen names for each genre?


Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children’s picture book “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), three novels, “Heaven Scent” (CFI 2008), “Altared Plans” (CFI 2009), and “The Upside of Down” (CFI 2011), and numerous magazine stories and articles. You can visit her blog at

4 thoughts on “Pen Names Anyone? by Rebecca Talley”

  1. For myself, if I like an author, I enjoy their writing no matter what genre it is. So I wouldn’t be thrown off with, like you said, an LDS writer publishing a non-LDS fantasy, as long as she stayed true to herself as a writer. So, to me, the idea of using a different pen name for different genres just sounds confusing and unnecessary.

  2. Sometimes it’s good to use a pen name when changing genres. I loved Anne McCaffrey’s sci fi and fantasy. So I tried one of her romances. Hated it. If I’d read the romance first, I’d have never given her fantasy a try. And that’s too bad because her dragon series is one of my favorites.

  3. I mostly agree with The Brown-Eyed Girl. Recently, though, I came across a set of charming juvenile Victorian mysteries. When looking for a gift for my teenaged son, I saw that author’s name on the sci-fi shelf. Flipping to a random page, the first thing that caught my eye was completely inappropriate.

    My conclusions are three:
    1. If I hadn’t recognized the name, I wouldn’t have been so disappointed. (vote for pen names)
    2. If I hadn’t checked it out first, I would have deserved what I got. (vote for reader responsibility)
    3. We LDS authors should be trustworthy in any genre, right?

  4. I agree with The Brown-Eyed Girl it can sometimes it get real confusing when an author uses a pen names.

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