The Secrets Of A Pseudonym

Reading & Writing

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One of the first questions you get asked as a writer is ‘Do you write under your own name? Considering I know a great many writers and none of them has a pseudonym it’s an odd thing to ask. I had certainly never considered adopting a pen name, because you spend years building a reputation under your real name, and you have to start from scratch with a new identity.

At the same time it can free you. I never thought I had a particular writing style until my agent read an unsigned piece and said, ‘I knew it was yours; it had your style.’ I had long wanted to write a suspense novel, but one thing it’s very hard to do in a suspense novel is have any humour (Lee Child is one of the few exceptions; he walks a fine line between parody and square-jawed action and does it brilliantly). So when I set out to write ‘Little Boy Found’ my editor suggested I create a pseudonym. I picked ‘L K Fox’ for three reasons;

It was non-gender specific, and I was going to use a strong female lead character (more male writers get criticised for writing female characters than the reverse).

It was my mother’s initials. Her name was Lilian Kathleen Fowler.

On the bookshop shelf ‘FOX’ falls right next to ‘FOW’, so you could find it easily.

The book was different in tone to my usual work. Normally I never use first person narrative, even though it’s much easier to write because you don’t have to worry as much about the prose style. It has very little humour, and this means you get taken seriously. And  the genre generally avoids concentrating on police and detection because it’s first person, so it’s filtered through the eyes of the protagonist.

Little Boy Found

The next question was; who should we tell about my ‘secret’ identity? If I was to be LK Fox to everyone, I would have to create a false online identity with photographs and a biography, and having an avatar felt dishonest. Besides, my cover was blown on the day I came up with the new name, not long after I walked into my publisher’s offices, which are in a beautiful modern building on Victoria Embankment with a huge glass atrium. The trouble with glass walls is that you can be seen by other departments. Within minutes of the meeting someone was speaking to my agent and said, ‘I saw Chris Fowler in our building today and he was meeting with X, who just announced a new author. Is he LK Fox?’

With my identity already revealed, we decided that those who knew my work would be told from the outset, and others coming to it for the first time wouldn’t necessarily know, although they could find out easily enough. The book first appeared as an e-novel, where it sold phenomenally well, and this means it will now go to print as a regular book.

It also means that it’s highly likely LK Fox will return with a new suspense novel…and so my alter ego lives to write again!

10 comments on “The Secrets Of A Pseudonym”

  1. Chris Webb says:

    If you need another pen name how about Parker?

    Sorry . . . 🙁

  2. Ken Mann says:

    One pseudonym curiosity is the writer David McDaniel, who published under his own name but lived under a pseudonym. Not a solution that can be sustained in the modern world.

  3. Brian Evans says:

    Frank Richards of Billy Bunter fame, allegedly, had about 20 different names.

  4. Brian Evans says:

    I have a confession. I gave up with Little Boy Found as it was getting me depressed, and I felt it was going to get gruesome.

  5. admin says:

    It’s very much what’s popular in the market right now, Brian, but I know what you mean – no jokes. It has one gruesome moment but mainly it has a huge (i.e. unfilmable) twist…

    Normal service is being resumed with Bryant & May…

  6. Steveb says:

    The sf field was full of pseudonyms and house names. There’s a book ‘Who’s Hugh’ from 20 or 30 years ago (pre-internet) which is just a huge index of them.

  7. Matt says:

    I think you could film the twist. Its been done before. Especially today with digital tech.

    Oh and I guessed the story would go where it did. Am I clever or what? Didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the ebook. Look forward to seeing another.

  8. Claire says:

    Will it be released in Audio format (on Audible) do you know? I adore listening to the Bryant & May books (thank you for wonderful characters!) and would love to listen to this one as well.

  9. admin says:

    Good question – I’ll do some checking when I’m back.

  10. Helen Martin says:

    Referring back a few days to that years old magazine photo of Chris, did you notice in the article that he was already doing the 6 impossible things before breakfast act then and that was when he still had a real job. How did he do that?

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