Who are you (with apologies to Pete Towneshend)? And who am I?
And was it a good idea?
Hmmm. Perhaps I should start again. Or even just start :-).
The thing about writers, well and actors. And, um, singers. And… well, the thing about writers is – they may not be who you think they are. Or who they say they are.
Er – what did he say?
I said writers, well and actors, and… Oh. I already did that bit :-P. I said writers may be mascare… miskor… moskar… er, I said writers sometimes pretend to be someone else.
The pen name has a long and respectable – or sometimes not so respectable – history. A writer who doesn’t want to use their real name may write under a different one. And there are all sorts of reasons for so doing. For instance, George Sand wrote thirty-nine novels and eleven plays. Or rather, George Sand didn’t. That was just the name on the cover. In fact, Amantine (also "Amandine") Lucile Aurore Dupin, later Baroness Dudevant wrote them. On the other hand, Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála "Emmuska" Orczy de Orczi was quite happy for her own name, even if rather shortened, to be on the cover of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
But neither of them were called ‘Smith’ :-P.
In the days before the Inter-tubes, pen names have been used to hide the fact that otherwise respectable people were in fact writers. Pen names have been used to hide real names considered, perhaps, embarrassing. Pen names have been used to save readers from trying to remember names they might find hard to pronounce. And they’ve been used to avoid what might become confusion, or even worse, lawyers at dawn. For instance, when Maurice Micklewhite first started out in movies, he took the stage name of Michael Scott. Unfortunately it turned out that name was already in use by somebody called, um, Michael Scott. Wandering round Leicester Square, Mr Micklewhite happened to see a movie poster. Deciding that ‘Michael One Hundred and One Dalmations’ probably wouldn’t be a good idea, he looked the other way. And because of The Caine Mutiny, Michael Caine was born.
But Michael Caine, or even Michael Micklewhite, wasn’t a Smith.
When I started out writing, or at least, when I started out trying to put my writing where people might be able to read it, I had to think about who to be. Whether, in fact, to take a pen name. I thought about being Bard Elcano. I even thought about being Sephiranoth – if a one name nom-de-pen was good enough for Charles Dickens, maybe it would work for me. But even though a web search is more likely to take you to the Captain of the South African cricket team, I went with ‘Graeme Smith’. I went with – me. After all. If it was good enough for Wilbur and Edward Elmer , I figured it was good enough for me.
So there you are. Graeme Smith. That’s me – pen or otherwise. A writer of comic fantasy. But, to paraphrase the Beard of Avon, would a Smith by any other name have been a good idea? I’d be interested in your thoughts. What do you think?