Last year, when it was revealed that The Cuckoo’s Calling’s author Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym used by renowned author J.K. Rowling, the book shot to the top of the bestsellers. Though the leak was not intentional, it did work out well for J.K. Rowling and her publishers in the end!
J.K Rowling is certainly not the first popular author to use a pseudonym. Author’s often use pseudonyms, and sometimes for the most bizarre reasons. Here’s a list of famous pseudonyms and the reasons behind them that you probably didn’t know:
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson adopted the pen name of Lewis Carroll in 1856. A modest and private person by nature, he assumed this pen name to keep his personal life separate. He was so dedicated to the cause that he even used to refuse the letters addressed to Lewis Carroll arriving at his office to maintain deniability.
The legendary comic book writer Stan Lee, who brought Avengers, Spiderman, Hulk and many others to life, was born Stanley Martin Lieber. He single-handedly turned around Marvel and the whole American comic industry. Harboring the dreams of being a serious published writer, he adopted the name Stan Lee early in his career when he started out as a comic book writer in order to reserve his birth name for more serious ventures. However, to much relief of his readers worldwide, he took Stan Lee as his legal name in May 1941.
George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair. His first full length work Down and Out in Paris and London was based on the themes of poverty and living as a tramp. To keep his family from being embarrassed, he wrote under the pen name of George Orwell. An avid swimmer, he picked Orwell from the famous River Orwell and George as a quintessential English name.
Stephen King wrote short novels earlier in his career under the name Richard Bachman. The reason behind assuming this pen name is quite bizarre. In those days publishers believed in publishing only one novel a year per writer. In order to get two books published in a single year, Stephen King submitted it under the name of Richard Bachman.
The famous Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, initially wrote under male pen names. This was done for the reason that in those times, female writers often attracted sexist views from staunch critics. The sisters, who would later go on to publish several successful books individually (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey etc.), published a book titled Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell using the initials of their first name to fashion men’s names.
The iconic sci-fi author with books like I, Robot, Foundation and Nightfall to his credit, wrote a popular sci-fi series for young adults under the name Paul French. The series The Adventures of Lucky Starr featured an orphaned space ranger David Starr who solved intergalactic mysteries. Towards the end, Isaac Asimov grew tired of his pseudonym and started leaving hints that led the readers to uncover his real identity.
Mary Ann Evans was an English novelist, journalist and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. She took up a male sounding pseudonym in order to distance herself from the frivolity that was associated with the works of female authors of that era. Hugely successful as an author, her work Middlemarch is regarded as one of the greatest novels in English language.
Agatha Christie was so good with her enthralling and gripping mystery books that she had become synonymous with the genre. Writing for a different genre would not have found unbiased readers. Wishing to expand her horizons as a writer, she penned six romance novels under the name of Mary Westmacott.
Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the author we better know as Mark Twain has a very interesting story behind the name. Though many versions of the origins exist, the most popular one remains that sailors at the port used ropes to measure the depth of sea. When the depth was two fathom (a unit of depth), the sailor measuring the depth would shout “Mark twain!” (‘twain’ is old English for two). Samuel picked up his name from these innocuous sailor shouts.
Acclaimed filmmaker and writer whose stellar works include Jurassic Park and ER had a penchant for pseudonyms. He is known to have used John Lange, Jeffery Hudson, and Michael Douglas as pen names while writing earlier in his career. In fact, his first book Odds On was published in 1966 under the name John Lange.