Lancashire comedian Les Dawson was a secret romance novelist! His family has recently unearthed a manuscript written under the pen name Maria Brett-Cooper. His publisher told him if he wanted to write romantic fiction he would need to do so under an assumed name.
Many authors have written under assumed names from Mark Twain to J K Rowling. But why not use your real name and bask in the glory of a well received novel (awards, prizes, flowers, speeches, book signings). Well, for a start, what if it isn’t so well received. You can then comfortably sit with your reading group over a cuppa and choccie diggies and gleefully rip apart the pile of literary slush that took you 18 months to write and never have to admit it was you who subjected the reading masses to such dribble.
Or maybe the nom de plume is for personal reasons. C S Lewis wrote one novel under a pen name after his wife’s death about his grief. He never permitted it to be published under his real name during his lifetime. Perhaps your novel is based on what happened to Auntie Gwen when she found out her husband was sleeping with her brother and their subsequent burial under the new patio. You wouldn’t want her to know it was you who’d dished the dirt when she’s finished doing two life sentences. She may try for third time lucky.
Another reason, particularly if you are a lady is to hide your ladyness. It is sad to think that in this day and age being a woman might hinder your chance at literary success, hence Joanne Rowling is now J K Rowling even though she has no middle name. And after her subsequent success she has adopted another pen name (again male) to see if she can do it again.
Or the case may be similar to Les Dawsons, known as a bestselling author in one genre it is imperative to adopt a nom de plume to publish in another. Agatha Christie, famous for her crime novels, wrote six romances under the name Mary Westmacott.
I myself prefer to write paranormal and fantasy. Over the past year though, I have attempted at writing romance and chic lit, simply because I have heard that the majority of books sold are chic lit/romance and crime/thriller fiction. (Yes I know, write what you like to write and if its good enough it will sell). I even produced 50,000 words of sentimentality for National Novel Writing Month. It now sits on my desk waiting for the day when it will be transformed into a cheap paperback. And when it does it will be published under a nom de plume, not least because when the reading public remember me (huge amount of optimism here) I want it to be for my spine chilling ghost stories and out of this world fantasies. And also because my romance novel is loosely based on the exploits of my friends and family (I have yet to change the names of characters to protect the not so innocent).