Monday, July 22, 2013

Hoppin' On The Bandwagon...

I've been reading a lot of blogs and comments about J. K. Rowling's pseudonym and latest book. All the questions like, why a male pen name? What was the reason behind it all? Things like that.

Well, here's my opinion on the matter...

First of all, it's like labeling an actor. Let's take Daniel Radcliffe, for an example. Will he forever be known as Harry Potter? Most likely. But he is a good actor, and he's done a couple different roles. Same with Emma Watson (Hermione) and Rupert Grint (Ron). They're all exceptional, but forever labeled.

Same could be said about J. K. Rowling. Sure, she's made a cool billion with the Harry Potter series, but here's the thing: she obviously enjoys writing. Otherwise, she would have stopped with the Harry Potter series and skipped all the way to the bank without another book idea popping in her head. She could have just walked away from it all, right? But she didn't. So when her 'Casual Vacancy' got less than rave reviews (because it wasn't Harry Potter), she did what anyone else in her position would do. She took on a pen name.

Good. For. Her.

Hell, I'd do the same.

As for the reasoning behind a male pen name? Why not? There could be lots of reasons she chose to go with the opposite gender. In my experience as a woman (and I'm a pretty good one), it's hard to get anywhere if you have to strap on a bra. One piece of advice I was given repeatedly in my life, from school to possible employers, was to use my initials on my resume. If they don't know if you are male or female, they tend to assume you're a guy and want to meet with you more often than not. Once you get to the interview and they find out you're a girl, well, you've already got your foot in the door.

Same can be said for writing, you know. How often are you likely to pick up a book written by a male versus a female?

It isn't that we're sexist, it's just something that has been ingrained generation after generation.

Even after all the progress we've made as women, it's still a man's world. (Please note sarcasm and don't spam me with hate mail.)

If I were to pick a pen name, I'd probably go male. Hire some cutie to pose for my author pic and laugh all the way to the bank. But, I chose to stick with what I've got. Initials. Then again, I don't have to hide behind a pen name, I don't have the amount of success Rowling has.

So, for whatever reasons she had, give her a break. I've noticed lots of people kinda complaining about all of this. Why? What's the deal? Yes, she's a household name and has had some major success, but come on. She's still a writer! She loves what she's doing enough to go the distance to be loved for what she writes, not how she writes it.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

She wanted to be anonymous and it almost worked.
Ironically most of the writers and authors I know are women. Maybe it's beginning to balance out.

D.G. Hudson said...

Use of a pen name isn't only for 'hiding' as you call it. Some writers have good reasons for using a pen name or an avatar.

Rowling, like a lot of writers who break in with writing for a younger segment, craves to write for adults, too.

Why not be happy with what she's done and create another fantasy? She seems out to prove something.
It's hard to leave the mountaintop to someone else. . .

Tony Laplume said...

D.G., I think Rowling more than proved that her books weren't just for kids, and not just because everyone and their mother wanted to read what everyone else was reading. If you've read Casual Vacancy (or Cuckoo's Calling), you'll see that she writes just as well for a deliberately adult audience. As for why she would continue writing after massive success...why not? I would much rather read a new book by a good author than a new book by a bad one. And some good authors have more than one story to tell, and in more than just the one genre they first became famous for writing.

As for writing as a male pseudonym, Melissa has pretty much already summed up the reasons. She was already pressured to do exactly what Melissa described concerning initials. And the fact that this book features a male protagonist, versus the traditional female lead that women normally write, makes much more discussion on the matter a moot point.

Mel Chesley said...

@ Alex ~ Yes, it did almost work. I hope it balances out completely. :)

@ D. G. ~ I agree, there are more reasons to choose a pen name than I have listed. However, I think if she is trying to hold on to said mountaintop, she'd be writing another series akin to Harry Potter to hold the spot, rather than go right for adults.

@ Tony ~ Agreed. I think Rowling writes well. I think the disappointment people discover after reading these new books and finding out it's her is mainly due to there being no mention of Harry. Haha! She created a very memorable, wonderful world with Harry Potter and when it ended, everyone still wants more.

Unknown said...

Agreed; J.K was going to writing under her full name (Joanne Rowling) but her publisher suggested they shorten it to J.K. so male readers would assume she was male and allow them to pick up the book without immediately dismissing it.

This is the same for the choice of a male pen name; I'm not hot on the crime genre, but I can't think of any female crime authors. I'd imagine having the male pseudonym would have a similar effect.

It's a shame that her secret got leaked by a blabbermouth on Twitter - she could have done quite a few novels under that name and no one would have known.

Mel Chesley said...

Yeah, whoever leaked it is lame. She can create another pen name, but it's the principle of it all. I know a couple of female crime authors, like J. A. Jance, again, using initials. Also Nora Roberts, but again, using a male pen name of J. D. Robb.

Unknown said...

Good post. There has been too much flak that doesn't understand the needs of a writer. And I realise that it is harder if you are a woman.

Stephen King tried to redefine his writing persona at Richard Bachman but ran into a similar outing in the media.

All power & credit to the writer please

Julie Dao said...

Great post! I don't think anyone can (or should) blame her for wanting to start afresh. Really interesting that even a writer as talented as Rowling may not sell like crazy with a debut, even with all of the praise. And encouraging, too!

Mel Chesley said...

@ Roland ~ Thanks. And I agree. Power and credit to the writer. Stephen King also tried to break out of his genre shell with "Eyes of the Dragon" which happened to be fantasy and got shot down. I actually enjoyed it and wished he would do more. His "Gunslinger" series is different, too, and is finally gaining some success after being out how long?

@ Julie ~ Thank you, and no, she shouldn't be blamed for wanting to do what she obviously loves. She is a writer and people need to give her a break for wanting to write different stuff. It is encouraging that she won't always go right to the top, but it also goes to show, every writer has the possibility of writing that one book (or series) that the whole world will love. (Or love to hate, lol!)