There has been a death in the family. Poor old Wren Harris has bitten the dust, expired, gone to live with the angels. More to the point, I have decided that having a nom de plume, however cute, is more trouble than it’s worth. At one time, Stephen King used the nom de plume Richard Bachmann, but must have felt much the way I did, for later he declared Bachmann had died of “cancer of the pseudonym, a rare form of schizomania”.
Authors use nom de plumes for a variety of reasons. Mary Jane Evans knew she would not be able to publish under her own name so instead she used the name George Eliot. Back in the day women writers were not published. For the same reason, the Bronte sisters wrote under various pseudonyms, the most famous being Currer, Ellis and Action Bell.
A moniker like Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto would trail off the edge of the page so the young poet chose to call himself Pablo Neruda which, later, he took as his legal name. His father, a railway worker, opposed the young man’s interest in writing, so maybe there was an element of “up yours” in the name change.
Eric Arthur Blair used the name George Orwell because he thought it was a “good, round English name”. I would have thought Eric Blair was pretty good too, but there you are!
John Banville writes thick intense literature but his alter ego, Benjamin Black, writes crime fiction. Banville says his work as Black is a craft whereas his work as Banville is an art. He says; “Sometimes, in the middle of the afternoon if I'm feeling a little bit sleepy, Black will sort of lean in over Banville's shoulder and start writing. Or Banville will lean over Black’s shoulder and say "Oh that's an interesting sentence, let's play with that." I can see sometimes, revising the work, the points at which one crept in or the two sides seeped into each other.” (Quoted from Sheila Langan’s article “Banville on Black”, Sept 2011)
David John Moore Cornwell worked for the British Intelligence Services MI5 and MI6 when he began writing. Under such circumstances it’s easy to understand why he used the pen name John le Carré. It was only after his third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, became a bestseller that Cornwell left MI6 to become a fulltime writer.
I published my novels under the name Wren Harris, firstly because I felt there had to be a different persona writing the somewhat odd-ball and humorous fiction that had started to emerge. Secondly, if you Google the name Jenny Harrison you’ll come up with thirteen and a half million entries. There are only seven people with the name Wren Harris in the USA. Sound reason for changing.
I still like the name, but the die is cast. Wren Harris is no more. All my books, fiction and non-fiction are now to be found under the common-or-garden name of Jenny Harrison.
(and very good they are too! Ed.)