Why I’m Using a Pen Name

Aside from “Why did you self-publish?” (answered here), the question I’ve been asked most often is “Why did you use a pen name?”

I haven’t asked, but I suspect these people’s thoughts run something like this: Are you embarrassed? Do you have something to hide? Why don’t you want anyone to find out who you are? Don’t you care about having your name on your writing?

Answers: 1. I’m not embarrassed. 2. I have nothing to hide. 3. I don’t care if people find out who I am. 4. These days? Not so much.

This guy’s name was Sam Clemens.

Pen names are supremely common in fiction. There’s a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to them. And they’re way more common than they used to be. As I started writing WORST-KEPT SECRET, I toyed with the idea of publishing under a name other than my own. By the time I was done, there was no question. As for my name—Sienna Cash—there was no question about that, either. Choosing it was the easy part.

Different writers have their own reasons for using a pen name. (Check some of them out.) Here are mine.

I’m an established nonfiction writer. Of all my reasons, I admit this is the most murky. All I can liken it to is a feeling. I’ve been writing nonfiction for years, but fiction, to me, feels different. It just does. Going with a new name feels natural.

I plan to write fiction for different age groups. I’ve been reading YA books all my life, from old-school (Judy Blume, Ellen Conford, Cynthia Voigt, Marilyn Sachs, Paula Danziger) to new-school (Sarah Dessen, Maureen Johnson, Stephanie Perkins, Lauren Myracle, John Green). Someday I will publish a YA book—more than one, I hope—and because I know what it’s like to adore a book and immediately seek out the author’s other work, I don’t want to accidentally expose those readers to inappropriately adult themes. Or cussing. Or sex.

I don’t need to be famous. Once upon a time, seeing my byline was thrilling. I’m over it. I’m just as proud seeing “Sienna Cash” as I would seeing my real name on a book cover. (Prouder, even, because it’s a much cooler name. I mean, come on.)

I plan to write nonfiction books under my real name. I have a couple of family-friendly specialties that I am already known for, and books and other nonfiction pieces in that realm are already planned. My real name as a brand is worth something in that market, so I’ll use it. Proudly.