On writing

I know why you use that pseudonym

When people hear that our book will be published under the name ‘S. K. Dunstall’ they nod, and say, “You don’t want people to know you’re women, do you.”

(Those who don’t say that say, “I didn’t know women wrote science fiction,” or, “You don’t look like science fiction writers.”  I mean, what do science fiction writers look like?)

It’s often assumed that authors using initials for their given names are trying to hide their sex. In some genres this is the case, but not necessarily in the ones you would expect.

For example, I would have expected male romance writers to use initials. In my experience, mostly they don’t. They use their own name, or an androgynous or outright female pseudonym. MM romance writers, on the other hand, do sometimes use initials. Not to hide the fact the author is a man, but to hide that the author is a woman.

Some authors use their initials as a second author name. Nora Roberts, for example, also writes as J. D. Robb.

Gut feel, I’d say that nowadays women outnumber men in the initials game.

I don’t know what proportion of authors who use initials chose to do so to obscure their sex so that their readers come to their books without bias. Some do, for sure.

I know that we didn’t.

We didn’t even think of it, in fact, until people started to ask if we had used initials because we were entering a male dominated genre and we didn’t want people to know we were women. For us it was simply a matter of common sense. There are two of us. Put our names together and it’s a mouthful. We want our name large enough to see on the cover.

So when you see an author who uses initials, don’t assume they’re always trying to hide who they are. The reason may be as simple as wanting to make their name shorter.

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