Monday, May 08, 2006

Stories Behind The Names (cont.)

STATUS: Crazy Monday. How can so much stuff pile up after only 2 days out of the office? It’s like my email and paper replicate itself into virtual or literal stacks that weren’t there when I left on Thursday morning. It’s three in the afternoon and I’ve just finished handling all the “immediate” stuff. Now I can focus on what really needs to be done. And get this, I just received a final contract in the mail and two pages were completely missing from the contract. I hope it’s not going to be that kind of week.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? LOVER, COME BACK TO ME by Dinah Washington

For those counting, we have read and responded to almost all queries through April 23, 2006 (I still need to review a few to see if I want 30 pages or not). Sara also wants to know what is up with all the abusive foster family stories we’ve been receiving lately.

I have to say I’ve really enjoyed talking about the stories behind the names. I actually didn’t realize how many I had until I started putting them down on this blog.

Today, it’s Ally Carter’s turn. This is not some big secret but Ally Carter is not my author’s real name. It’s actually a name that the two of us created and I think this story is kind of fun.

I actually signed Ally for a literary mystery (a novel we still plan to submit in the not so distant future). She was working on revising and was having a slightly frustrating time. Deciding she needed a break, she sent me an email about another novel she was working on—not a literary work. It was a fun novel about a self-help guru on being single getting set-up and then caught in the tabloids with a hunky, struggling actor and how that impacts her life and career. (Yep, you guessed it. CHEATING AT SOLITAIRE that came out this past December.)

Sounds delightful. Send it to me. She did. Loved it. Let’s submit this. But ultimately, she wanted to save her name for her literary work so Ally, the alter-ego, was born.

But it wasn’t born casually. If we were going to create a pseudonym, we wanted to be smart about it. We needed a name that would fit this fun romantic comedy. Being the kind of gal she is, my author created a spreadsheet with a variety of names and combinations.

The two of us actually chose Ally Morgan.

Off it went. Both Avon and Berkley wanted it. Berkley won. Ally Morgan’s new editor calls me.

Editor: “This is a pseudonym. Is she open to changing it?”

Me: “Sure. What do you have in mind?”

Editor: “I’m thinking the “Ms” aren’t a great place in the alphabet for a writer of romantic comedies. I’d like her more near the front of the alphabet and what the hey, how about near Jennifer Crusie?”

Me: “Since it’s not a real name, why not make it about shelf-position.”

It worked for us.

And Ally Carter was born. Honestly, we had no idea what a scamp that alter-ego Ally was going to be. Ally’s career is going like mad.

And no, I’m not going to reveal Ally’s real name (although it’s really not a big deal for me or for Ally if her real identity is discovered). After all, it’s not some big secret.


At 4:50 PM, December Quinn said...

I'm disappointed. My younger daughter's name is Morgan so I love seeing it places. :-)

At 4:52 PM, Elektra said...

I sort of stole my pseudonym--Bell, from the Bronte sisters' pen names. Then i kept my middle initial (A.), and went down the alphabet, trying to decide which letter souded best in front of the two.

Thus I became H.A. Bell (and if anyone sees anything wrong with the name, please point it out!)

At 5:16 PM, Karen Dionne said...

But - but - but - Ally looks like an Ally!

And yes, I know her real name. :)

But honestly, Ally, I've known you for so long under your pseudonym, I don't think I could ever call you anything else!

Good choice, you guys.

At 6:30 PM, Ally Carter said...

Since it's my turn on the hot seat, I'll add some details about how and why.

Why the pseudonym for this and not my other works? Some people have actually said it was because I was ashamed of my lighter stuff and wanted to be known as a "serious" writer. Well, let me say right off the bat that I'm serious about being a good writer--and hopefully getting there. I don't get into the genre wars. There's good stuff everywhere and bad stuff everywhere, and as long as I'm doing my best to turn out the good stuff, I'm proud to be a writer. Period.

The reason "Ally" writes the lighter stuff is for a couple of reasons.

First, if you Googled my real name you'd get a bunch of stuff pertaining to my day job which has *nothing* to do with spies or self-help gurus or anything I've written about before--which is okay. But my day job *does* pertain to the context of my more literary stuff--an easier platform if you will-- so it just made sense.

Plus, if you're going to write "fun" books, I liked having the option of creating a "fun" name, and doesn't Ally sound like someone you knew in school and wish you'd kept in touch with?

After that decision, I had a few criteria:

1...the dot com domain had to be available. This was non-negotiatable.

2...No other writers in any genre could have the name (because if you're starting from scratch, why not go with the dream scenario?) needed to be easy to spell

4...ideally, it wouldn't sound made up. That's a part of why I looked at "Ally" and other names like it. No one is ever born an Ally. They're born an Allison or an Alexandra or an Alice. They evolve into an Ally.

5...Kristin already mentioned the "C" thing.

I spent a lot of time thinking about people in my family or others I have loved and trying to honor them through the name--that's actually where the Morgan came from. But in the end it didn't work out, and I'm okay with that.

I'm now Ally Carter, and it's starting to fit. I can introduce myself as Ally and not feel like a big fraud. When people find out it's a pen name, they don't get offended.

Plus, have I said that this whole secret identity business can be a little exciting? It was a good move for me and my career.

Hopefully someday in the near future we'll sell that literary mystery. At that time I'll have to make the call about whether to link between the two genres or not. On one hand, if the movie gets made Ally Carter will be a bigger name. But she'll be a big name for an incredibly different type of book, and fans of one won't necessarily enjoy the other.

I just hope I get to have that problem.


PS...As it turns out, I did get to use Morgan--it's the last name of the main character in my new YA series, which honors my friends, the Morgans, perhaps better than anything else.

At 11:15 PM, Cindy Procter-King said...

I love the name Morgan, but personally I think Ally Carter sounds better than Ally Morgan. Maybe I'm just used to it from seeing you on the CL lists.

My dog is named Allie McBeagle. I purposely didn't spell it Ally because I had to distinguish her from her namesake somehow!


At 5:56 AM, Jana DeLeon said...

I love Ally too - and even though I know "Ally", I still have to pause a minute and get her other name. :)

Just FYI, there is a very well known award winning historical & contemporary author who writes under a pseudonym. I knew her for almost three years before I found out. She is completely immersed in her alternate identity for writing. It's not a secret, but she felt she needed to get used to it for her career, so that's what she goes by at any writing event, meeting, convention, etc.

At 7:04 AM, Wesley Smith said...

Wow. It WAS really easy to find out her real name (I'm a sucker for a good puzzle--so sue me), but I'm not going to mention it here. However, after Googling her real name, I fully understand why she chose the pen name.

...But it does make me very interested about her mystery, if her day job gives her a good platform.

At 11:03 AM, joanr16 said...

Last night I learned on American Experience on PBS that Phoebe Ann Moses Butler took a grandmother's name and became Annie Oakley.

It's been really interesting to hear from Ally Carter and Jennifer O'Connell regarding their "renaming" experiences for publishing different categories of fiction. I've learned a lot from Kristin's series of blogs on author names! Thanks to all of you!

At 11:17 AM, Anonymous said...

I've always wanted to ask this question: What happens when you have a pen name, and your book signing is in the area where you live? How about newspaper interviews in your local newspaper? Do you "out" yourself, go by the pen name and no photos?
(By they way, I like the name Ally Carter.)

At 12:01 PM, Ally Carter said...

Initially I wanted to keep it "in". I'm not sure why--maybe because it's confusing or with the world being what it is, I liked an extra layer of protection between my public persona and where I live.

But in the end, it was too hard. The newspapers and all usually list both, and that's okay. When I sign books for people I know, I always ask which name they want--usually both.

It's a little awkward and unweildy at times (for example, I conference I spoke at gave me a small check for expenses and they made it to "Ally" and now I'm having trouble cashing it.) But other than that, it's a good move I don't regret.

At 1:48 PM, Anonymous said...

Thanks, "Ally," for answering that!

At 7:19 PM, Gabriele C. said...

I never though about the place in alphabet when I invented my writer alias, but as it is, Gabriele Campbell seems to be a good choice. Would get me close to Bernard Cornwell, and that's not bad considering the fact my books have male MCs and quite some fighting. :)

I decided for a pen name because for one, my German name is difficult to spell and impossible to pronounce, second, I write in English, and third, I want to keep my academic career separate from my writer - hoperfully to come - career. Some German academics are such pompous, ahem, creatures, when it comes to writing genre fiction (historical fiction is a genre in its own right in Germany).

Gabriele is my real first name, btw. But I could imagine changing it to something 'gender neutral' like Arran Campbell in case it would help marketing my books.

At 8:56 PM, Allison Brennan said...

Makes total sense to me. I think Ally Carter fits the books. (Besides, I'm partial to anything close to "Allison") :) . . . I think when you take a pen name you should be smart about it. One of my old crit partners has a pen name because her last name is sooooooooooooooo long and hard to pronounce that it wasn't working for a romantic comedy writer. Her pen name is short and hip and suits her personality and is close enough to her real name that she answers to it fairly quickly :)

At 5:15 PM, Brenda Bradshaw said...

People think mine's a pen name, but alas, it's not.

I like Ally Carter better than Morgan too.


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