Authors

The Surprising Stories Behind the Pen Names of 10 Famous Authors

28 June 2018
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From The Literary Hub:

 Some authors become so iconic that they cease, in some sense, to be people—especially once they’re dead, and have passed securely into the realm of our collective imagination. But there’s much to be gained from digging a little deeper into those writers, or at the very least, scratching off that first surface: the names (and personas) they invented for their writing careers.

. . . .

I have to admit, I had no idea that Toni Morrison was a pen name—but it’s true. The “Toni” came from her saint’s name, Anthony, which she took at 12 after converting to Catholicism. Toni soon became her nickname. “Morrison” was her first husband’s name—they married in 1958 and divorced in 1964. “To this day,” wrote Boris Kachka in a 2012 profile of Morrison, “she deeply regrets leaving that now world-famous name on her first novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970.”

“Wasn’t that stupid?” she says. “I feel ruined!” Here she is, fount of indelible names (Sula, Beloved, Pilate, Milkman, First Corinthians, and the star of her new novel, the Korean War veteran Frank Money), and she can’t own hers. “Oh God! It sounds like some teenager—what is that?” She wheeze-laughs, theatrically sucks her teeth. “But Chloe.” She grows expansive. “That’s a Greek name. People who call me Chloe are the people who know me best,” she says. “Chloe writes the books.” Toni Morrison does the tours, the interviews, the “legacy and all of that.” Which she does easily enough, but at a distance, a drama-club alumna embodying a persona—and knowing all the while that it isn’t really her. “I still can’t get to the Toni Morrison place yet.”

“Myself is kind of split,” she told The Guardian the same year. “My name is Chloe. And the rest is . . . that other person.”

. . . .

Of all the writers on this list, John le Carré probably has the coolest reason for using a pseudonym—spies can’t use their own names when they publish books. I mean, obviously! He wrote his first novel, Call for the Dead, while an MI5 agent, but it didn’t print until he had moved to MI6. As le Carré explained:

I was what was politely called “a foreign servant.” I went to my employers and said that I’d written my first novel. They read it and said they had no objections, but even if it were about butterflies, they said, I would have to choose a pseudonym. So then I went to my publisher, Victor Gollancz, who was Polish by origin, and he said, My advice to you, old fellow, is choose a good Anglo-Saxon couple of syllables. Monosyllables. He suggested something like Chunk-Smith. So as is my courteous way, I promised to be Chunk-Smith. After that, memory eludes me and the lie takes over. I was asked so many times why I chose this ridiculous name, then the writer’s imagination came to my help. I saw myself riding over Battersea Bridge, on top of a bus, looking down at a tailor’s shop. Funnily enough, it was a tailor’s shop, because I had a terrible obsession about buying clothes in order to become a diplomat in Bonn. And it was called something of this sort—le Carré. That satisfied everybody for years. But lies don’t last with age. I find a frightful compulsion towards truth these days. And the truth is, I don’t know.

Trust a spy to keep the real story close to his chest. Well, at least he didn’t go with “Chunk-Smith.”

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

Even on a romantic holiday my thoughts turn to murrrder

19 August 2017

From The Guardian:

“My readers are probably going to kill me,” Val McDermid announces cheerfully when we discuss the ending of her latest novel. Her new Tony Hill and Carol Jordan book, Insidious Intent, is published on Thursday, and the reaction of fans to how she has chosen to end it will be interesting. “There’s a certain fear of being stoned in the street,” she chuckles.

We meet at the Theakston Old Peculier crime writing festival in Harrogate, where McDermid is practically royalty, and she has murder on her mind. This is not unusual, she says; quite frequently a pleasant weekend away will turn her thoughts to homicide. There was the time when she spotted a wedding party during a crime and mystery conference at her old college, St Hilda’s, Oxford, “and by the end of the afternoon it seemed to me that the logical thing that was going to have to happen was that the bridegroom would be dead by bedtime. And by the end of the weekend I had the basic shape of the story in my head.”

. . . .

If the hypothesis is correct that sales of crime writing soar during troubled political times, then the genre must be thriving. But McDermid thinks it’s not so simple. “I can’t actually think of a time in my adult life when we haven’t been living in troubled times,” she says. “I think what we have now is a greater perception of the troubled times around us, and that’s partly because of … the 24/7 news cycle.” The consolation of crime fiction for the reader, she suggests, is that “although terrible things happen, at the end there is some sort of resolution”. The value of crime fiction for the writer is slightly different: “People can read these books and be afraid but in a safe way … and that I suppose gives you the freedom to explore other things in the book … You can write about politics, you can write about relationships, you can write about landscape, you can write about whatever you want to write about and frame it in this shape.”

. . . .

Crime fiction has flourished since McDermid started writing it in the 1980s. “When I started out it was quite narrow in many respects,” she says. “Mostly in the UK what was being written was either village mysteries or police procedurals.” Having grown up in the 50s and 60s in Kirkcaldy, a former mining town on Scotland’s east coast, she didn’t see how she could translate her own experience into a crime novel a la Agatha Christie: “It’s not very much like St Mary Mead,” she observes. After university, she trained as a journalist, and worked for 14 years on national newspapers, eventually becoming the northern bureau chief of a Sunday tabloid. Her first novel, Report for Murder, was published in 1987 by the Women’s Press.

Link to the rest at The Guardian Here’s a link to Val McDermid’s books.

 

The Key To Agatha Christie’s Mysteries

8 July 2016

Experts said “if there were several land vehicles in the story, the killer was likely to be female. Similarly, a prevalence of nautical vehicles suggests they are more likely to be male.”

Read the explanation http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/11779272/Experts-devise-formula-to-crack-Agatha-Christies-murder-mysteries.html

 

George R.R. Martin Interview

7 July 2016
George R.R. Martin talks about the Game of Thrones series that’s sold 58 million copies.  (He owns Robby the Robot!)

You Don’t Know Ernest

6 July 2016
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Documentary about the unique Ernest Hemingway