My Namesake

I’m no stranger to writing under names that aren’t my own. See, when you’re on contract with a magazine and that contract doesn’t net you enough to, say, pay for both gas and food, and yet the parameters of the arrangement don’t allow you to write for other publications — well, you get a little creative.

The name I’d use, if it didn’t need to be a female author, was Benjamin Fairway — my middle name plus the name of the street I grew up on because someone had once told me that was how porn stars came up with their names. (And how’s this for small world? I just googled “Benjamin Fairway” in the hopes of finding some of those pieces and I stumbled upon this — another soul who shares the same middle name + name of the street he grew up on. I’d say it was fate and the two of us were meant to be together if it hadn’t been for the one sentence he wrote which managed to, in very few words, reveal much more than I needed to know — that is, that he’d be “happying shagging women for money” with that name.)

Now, a word about my middle name. I understand, you see, that it’s odd for a woman to have a male name when it’s not, say, “Pat” or “Lee.” I actually have two, since my last name, David, also qualifies. I was named after a distant relative whose maiden name was Benjamin and I have to admit that as far as middle names go, I’m reasonably happy with mine. Not only is it cute but it’s also quite a conversation piece when you’re in a crunch.

What I don’t understand is when writers use pseudonyms when they don’t have to. I was on a panel with some other novelists once and one of the people on it wrote under another name just because she decided to. It’s like…really? I dragged myself to the computer day after day, week after week, to let someone else — some fictional person — get the glory?

So, no matter how much I have to compete with the Dutch singer Anna David for Google space, I plan on using my name from now on. Unless, of course, I somehow get into another exclusive contract situation or commit to some high-paying writing gig that I’m simply too humiliated to be attached to, and Benjamin Fairway will have to step in. I figure, if anyone questions me about it, I can always blame it on the guy “happying shagging women for money,” right?

6 Replies to “My Namesake”

  1. The other way I have heard to determine a pen name is take the name of your first pet and the street you first lived on. I am definitely using that name at some point — for me it’s
    Chico Fremont. Sounds like an Elmore Leonard character! It will become my alter ego I am sure!
    Seriously though I did end up using only half my name as I actually have a hyphenated one. It sometimes is a decision by an agent and editor and has little to do with what a writer wants!

  2. Hee hee – I was laughing with this post – I DID spend my whole life dreaming about this moment – publication AND to be in the Library of Congress, only to end up writing under a pen (for anyone who’s forgotten, the backstory is on my website) AND copywriting the whole thing under our LLC (something we probably wouldn’t have done if we didn’t have kids – it’s a trust/will thing). My real name is nowhere to be found (in legal docs). It was a bit weird at first, especially at signings where I have to remember who I am since no one is really interested in me explaining why I write under a pen. But now I kind of like it – it helps me to be a little less attached to the outcome (“They don’t like me!”). Now I’m used to it and it works for me.

  3. Lets see, middle+street? Elena Leola… sheesh, that’s a mouthful. Pet+street? Misty Leola… not much better.

    I write under a pen name, at my DH’s request. He has a very strange, terribly conservative family who would be horrified that I write romance (NOT erotica, mind you — my stuff is very tame, but still…)

    I did, however, create a pen name not TOO far off from my own, so I will answer to it. If you call me two or three times…

    Mia, I’m heading over to read your story. I’m intrigued.

  4. I’ve known a few women with last names as middle names, it’s cool that yours is also a stand-alone male first name. You know the trend of new baby girls being given traditional boys’ names?,19973,614571,00.html — I definitely think Benjamin is a contender.

    And poor other Benjamin Fairway — I somehow doubt he’s doing much happying shagging women, for money (unless he’s paying) or otherwise.

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