Name changing based on gender is not reserved for female authors. Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy, who wrote the famous novel Ironweed, used the name Diana Diamond to allow his writing to be more feminine. Nora Roberts, a prolific romance writer, has also joined the ranks of secret authors with her novels under the pen name J.D. Robb. Roberts was afraid that if she wrote in a completely different style and genre, her work would be criticised too harshly. She wrote the In Death futuristic science-fiction novels and was discovered as the true author only after the 12th In Death novel was published in 2001. She has continued to use her pen name.

Mark Twain and George Orwell are household names when it comes to authors. However, both of these famous names are, in fact, pen names. Twain’s real name is Samuel Langhorne Clemens, and Orwell’s is Eric Blair. Both these authors didn’t have much reason for taking up pen names, as they tried not to embarrass their families and chose names which simply sounded better than their own names.

Horror author Stephen King has written several books under the pen name Richard Bachman. At the beginning of King’s career, publishers thought that authors should publish no more than one book per year. Being a prolific writer, King strove to find a way around this, and a series of books now known as the “Bachman books” was born. Dean Koontz is also well-known for his use of pen names. He has nine pen names which he has used, although he now uses his real name. Some of Koontz’s more well-known pen names are Brian Coffey, Deanna Dwyer and John Hill. In the beginning he used each name for a different genre, but this trick also allowed him to escape negative critics who often criticise authors who publish often and under varying genres.

Next time you read a book, think about whose work you are actually reading. The real author might just be someone you never expected.

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