Monday, July 21, 2014

Famous Pseudonyms and Stage Names

Eleanor Hibbert aka Jean Plaidy,
Victoria Holt, Philippa Carr, etc.
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." William Shakespeare

Are you thinking about choosing a pen name? Perhaps you want something a little more sultry or adventurous sounding. If you already have something in mind, Google it to make sure no one else is using it. One writer I know of had picked a perfect name, but after doing a search found out it belonged to a porn star! Back to the drawing board.

For years, authors have been using pseudonyms for various reasons. Mary Ann Evans, aka George Eliot, used a male pen name to make sure her works were taken seriously. Eleanor Hibbert's complex literary novels produced little interest among publishers. She was told the easiest way to break in to publishing would be with romantic fiction. She chose to write contemporary romances under her maiden name Eleanor Burford, and found success. Talented and prolific, she went on to write historicals as Jean Plaidy, and Gothic romance as Victoria Holt.

Kim Novak aka Marilyn Novak... Only room
for one Marilyn in the 1950's
Nora Roberts, the most popular and prolific author of contemporary romance, shortened her real name from Eleanor Robertson, because she thought all writers used pseudonyms. Ms. Roberts writes her romantic suspense series, "In Death," under the pen name J.D. Robb.

Jayne Castle (birth name) writes futuristic paranormals. Under her married name, Jayne Ann Krentz, she writes contemporary romantic suspense, and as Amanda Quick, pens historicals.

As writers choose pen names, so actors choose stage names. Sometimes these names are used to evoke a certain image, or perhaps disassociate a sibling connection. Years ago, names deemed too ethnic were changed to more all American sounding monikers. And of course, names must be changed if already in use by someone famous. Read on for a fun list of stage names vs. real names.

  • So So to Star: Norma Jean Baker aka Marilyn Monroe, Frances Gumm aka Judy Garland, Tula Finklea aka Cyd Charisse, Archibald Leach aka Cary Grant
  • Sibling Disassociation: Peter Graves (Aurness, Mission Impossible)) and James A(u)rness (Gunsmoke), Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine (Beatty), Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine (de Havilland), Donna DeVerona and Joanna (DeVarona) Kerns
  • Ethnic to White Bread: Rita Cansino aka Rita Hayworth, David Kaminski aka Danny Kaye, Issur Danielovitch aka Kirk Douglas, Bernard Schwartz aka Tony Curtis, Dino Crocetti aka Dean Martin
  • Already Taken: Marilyn Novak aka Kim Novak (not enough room for two Marilyns during the '50s, thanks to Marilyn Monroe), Mike Douglas talk show host, Mike Douglas actor aka Michael Douglas, Michael Douglas actor aka Michael Keaton
Do you have a pen name? If not, do you plan to use one?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Republished from 7/21/10.


William Kendall said...

I do of course have a penname, which I prefer.

John Cleese re-used Cary Grant's original name for his character in A Fish Called Wanda.

Maria McKenzie said...

That's an interesting tidbit about A Fish Called Wanda!

Btw, William Kendall is a great name--it sounds very regal;).

Norma said...

I insisted upon using my real name when I sold my first novel. But looking back, I wish I had gone with a pseudonym. In the beginning, I wanted the attention. Now, I want privacy.

Go figure.

Maria McKenzie said...

I love your name! There's only one;).

Intangible Hearts said...

Maybe someday but I thought part of the point is a lasting legacy for a family. How do Gumm family members feel about this or the Crocetti family?

Jennette Marie Powell said...

I write under my maiden name. The main reason for not using my married name, Heikes, is no one knows how to pronounce it, or if they hear it, no one can spell it! I have a weird spelling for my first name, so stick with the easy last name. :)

Maria McKenzie said...

Wise choice! An easy name is easier to remember and search for;).

Liza said...

Thanks dear for great information!! Yeah film celebrities, singers, musicians or other famous celebrities mostly use stage names as they feel their real name is not good enough!