A rose by any other name…
I wrote three books under another name when I first got published. I started out writing romantic suspense. I’ve always loved to read mysteries so this seemed like the perfect genre for me. I was still teaching at the time and since my books had some steamy scenes, I thought I should use a pen name. I picked Lynn McKay. That’s my middle name and my maiden name. When I was a kid, I used to fantasize that I was a famous comedienne, like Lucille Ball. I would practice signing autographs and Lynn McKay was the name I used. I hated Gerry. Boy or girl? The confusion has followed me all my life.
Anyway, I sold those two books then decided to write a historical romance. I’d had this idea for years and won a contest with it. Originally called A Matter of Duty, it even finalled in the Golden Heart, a Romance Writers of America contest for unpublished authors. By the time I sold it, in 2000, I’d changed the name to Sweet Deceit. It didn’t get a very big print run but I loved the cover and was thrilled to see it in Barnes & Noble.
This week it’s a giveaway at my friend Vicky Dreiling’s website. She writes Regency historicals too. Sweet Deceit came out in 2002. If I rewrote it today, I’d make some changes, tighten up the story, make the pacing faster. But the basic story would stay the same. It’s a pretty dark plot: An aging duke needs a worthy heir and contrives to have his young bride sleep with his handsome nephew to get one. The two fall in love of course and it’s a difficult journey for their happily ever after. The villain in the piece is the nasty heir the duke is denying. I made him disgusting, over the top in a lot of ways. It was a fun book to write. I love the time period and have read probably hundreds of Regencies. I swear I may have lived then in a previous life.
Now I write under my real name. When new writers as me if they should use a pen name, I discourage it. I found it confusing back then. I’d go to a meeting or conference and have to answer to Lynn. I’m not used to that. I’m Gerry and, like it or not, that’s what I answer to. I’m a woman, it’s pronounced as if it starts with a “J” and that’s that. It’s nice to have a “B” last name. I’m shelved next to my buddy Nina Bangs. Michele Bardsley writes similar books and our books snuggle up to each other. I like that. If my career tanked and a publisher or my agent asked me to take a new name I’d balk. Maybe Gerry has written some stinkers, maybe Lynn did. But I own up to them. I’ll leave it up to my audience to decide whether to buy me or pass on the next book. Hiding behind a new name doesn’t seem fair. What do you think?