From the time I was five years old, all I wanted was to see my name on a book. I wanted to be a real author. My name in lights. The works. I was an only child with twenty pieces of stick-figure art on her parents’ fridge. I wanted to do something good and be recognized for it.
Add that to the fact that my last name is dying out with my generation. While some of my cousins got our long Irish name tattooed on their bodies, I always said I’d do something more lasting and less painful—put it on a book.
So, why do I use so many pen names? As you can probably tell from my “Lot O’ Books” section of my website, I write a lot of different things. I’ve got dozens of educational children’s books under my real name, Caitie McAneney. So, when the opportunity came up to publish my YA verse book, Every Little Bad Idea, it only felt right to sort of…compartmentalize. It was a completely different form from my educational nonfiction books. Then, the opportunity to write graphic novels came up, and again, it was so different from what I’d been doing, I just felt like putting a new name on there. If I ever get the chance to publish a YA prose novel, I may just loop back to my given name.
Plenty of authors use pen names. I remember finding out in high school that one of my favorite authors, Meg Cabot, wrote books under the name Jenny Carroll. To me, it wasn’t off-putting that she had a different name on the books—I was just excited there were more of them.
Stephen King wrote under the name Richard Bachman for a while because he thought the publishing world would only accept one book per author per year, and he had more stories to tell. The magical J.K. Rowling wrote books very different from Harry Potter under the name Robert Galbraith. Nora Roberts is another one of those wildly prolific authors, and she publishes one series under the name J.D. Robb. These pen names usually aren’t to trick people—many people know J.D. Robb and Nora Roberts are one in the same.
So, while it might be confusing that I use Caitie McAneney on my children’s books, Caitie McKay on YA verse, and C.R. McKay on graphic novels, I assure you it’s not to trick anyone. It’s just me, an author young in her career, trying to make sense of the many different kinds of writing she does, and how best to attribute it. A person’s creativity can take many forms, and they don’t all have to fit into one box.