Guest post: What’s in a Name? by Una Tiers

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of pen names is brought to you by debut mystery novelist Una Tiers.

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?  Plenty! Pen names (nom de plume) have been used for centuries. Some create distinct identities to avoid confusion when an author writes both fiction and non-fiction or if an author writes in more than one genre.  They can separate two parts of a career such as writing and editing, or fiction writing and law.   One of the allures about a pen name is that it may keep people guessing about your identity and generate a little internet buzz.

Some authors write under a pseudonym for anonymity, to stand out with an unusual name or to avoid confusion with other authors who have similar names.  Others write under a pen name to avoid repercussions much like the witness protection program.  In the past, female authors wrote under gender neutral or male names for the sake of acceptability.

At least one author has used two or more pen names to have multiple articles published in the same magazine issue.  Another author writes under different names since he finishes more than one novel a year and thinks people will not buy two books from the same author in one year.

Do you write smoldering erotica with heaving bosoms?  Want the neighbors to know?  Many writers use their legal name along with their pen name to maintain their followers and to bring in new ones with a name that is sculptured for fiction writing.

Pointers on selecting a pen name include using the early letters of the alphabet to and getting close in spelling to a famous author.  Names that fit a genre are another point of pen names:  Lana Loving, Amber Asp, Derk Alleys or Sky Cubes.   Names at the start of the alphabet and those with one or two syllables seem to be preferred.  Try the names out in the beta stage to see how they sound to friends and your writing group.  Check existing website availability.

Places to find ideas for pen names include my favorite: obituaries and of course the internet.  Once you have your pen name, start branding and use it in your website, social networking and book sites.  You are working on a clean slate.

Famous writers with pen names include Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain); Jean Baptiste Poquelin (Moliere); Emily Bronte (Ellis Bell) and Esther Friedman (Ann Landers).

Discussion:  If you are choosing a pen name, please tell us the two main reasons you did.  Thank you.

A special thank you to Morgen for inviting me to post.

You’re so welcome, thank you Una! Derk Alleys, I love that. 🙂 And yes, please do tell.

Una Tiers is the pen name for an attorney in Chicago who writes about corruption in the courts.  Her debut mystery, Judge vs Nuts has a female sleuth, Fiona Gavelle, and has been described as a humorcide, a traditional mystery, a cozy and a legal mystery.

I then invited Una to provide an extract of her writing and this is taken from ‘Judge vs Nuts’:

I don’t like funeral processions because they are inherently dangerous, even though driving through red lights is fun. The custom is also barbaric if you think about it just a little. Participants risk getting cut off from the herd or getting hit by some driver who isn’t paying attention to the divergence of the regular traffic pattern. This ironically could generate more business for the very people who advocate funeral processions, the undertakers. Now and then I worry my evil nature will cause me to turn into a drive through car wash or hamburger place just to see who follows. For this reason, when I am unsupervised, I usually make sure I’m the last car in the procession.

After the forty-five minute drive, with no near death experiences and no comic interludes we arrived at All the Holy Saints cemetery at the city’s west border. Judge Curie was quiet during the drive allowing me to concentrate on driving. A few times he reached up for the

overhead grip and acted as if a train was heading straight for my car. He didn’t seem to like my driving.

At the cemetery, the funeral guy directed the cars to park two across on the narrow (but plowed) roads. We waited while the pallbearers struggled to maintain their footing, slipping and sliding a little while they carried the coffin from the hearse to the grave.

“What would happen if they dropped him?” I whispered.

You can email Una at or and her website is

‘Judge vs Nuts’ is available via etc.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with debut novelist Alexandra Singer – the two hundred and ninety-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. And I have a new forum at

12 thoughts on “Guest post: What’s in a Name? by Una Tiers

  1. DV Berkom says:

    Great article, Una. A pen name is handy when it comes to keeping publishing finances separate. Even though mine is easily connected to my actual name, I prefer using it, mainly because it’s shorter 🙂 In your case, I’m sure it also reduces awkward moments when a colleague reads your book…


  2. Una Tiers says:

    The beauty of the internet: DV said her book is COMPLIMENTARY, greedy little me went over and grabbed one and shared her post. Then one of my peeps shared the post. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh



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