Friday, June 28, 2013

Writing on the Double: Pen Names and My YA Twin

by Malena Lott
(or is it Lena Brown?)

Sometimes I pinch myself that I get to slip into another world where I can be in control of the universe, the conflicts are thankfully not real (though they feel like it!) and I come away feeling like I've had a great adventure. If you've written more than one book, though, you realize there are limits to those adventures.

As an author, you don't get to go wild with whatever story pops into your head. You have to be somebody pretty special to be able to write whatever the hell you want and still use ONE name. Readers may love your voice, but we're creatures of habit, too. If your "brand" is known for historical romance, readers will look for another book by you and be devastated that your next book is a sci-fi time travel without so much as one good earlobe sucking scene.

So if you do want to write a story unlike what you've been writing...ta-da!...get a new name.

That's just what I did.  In 2009, I needed a break from writing women's fiction. I'd had two books published (The Stork Reality with Dorchester and Dating da Vinci with Sourcebooks) and my option novel was going to require a major rewrite, revised to a single person POV, down from three - and a switch from first to third POV, at that!

I declined the start-from-scratch option on my manuscript, but realized I needed a real breather.  (Though three years later that book was published the way I had first envisioned as Something New and readers seem to like it this way.)

So I thought at the time - I SHOULD REALLY TRY SOMETHING NEW. Ha. See what I did there?

That "something new" became my YA re-invention, Lena Brown, which happened to be my name when I was a teenager. (Best friends called me Leners.)  I tried several story ideas before I landed on Twin Falls about a secret colony of Messenger angels in Twin Falls, Texas. It's in soft launch now at an introductory offer of just .99 in the Kindle Store and by Sunday for nook. It's also available in trade paperback for those teens who prefer to read the old-fashioned way.

Author Reinvention 101

Upside: You get to be creative and have a release for all those story ideas that didn't fit with your "other  established self."

Downside: It means you're starting near zero on platform. While I have a website and Twitter account I started last year to promote short stories under my pen name in YA anthologies, I don't have near the following I do for my women's fiction.

Downside 2: You may start feeling like you have multiple personality disorder. I say this because I'm working on two other projects in two other genres. Could make your head spin keeping up with it all. Thing is, lots of authors do this and do it well. And you can be published with multiple publishers as well as indie publishing, so you can pull it off. It just may take more time and marketing dollars.

I look at my other selves as brands, not people. And it's okay to mesh them when it makes sense. For example, I'm going on a five city book tour starting in late July I'm calling the "fly" sisterhood tour because I'll be promoting both my Twin Falls title *and* my fifth women's fiction novel, Family Charms. Calling it "fly" because one is about angels and the other is about sisters who travel the world to see where there mother has been the last twenty years. (See what I did there?) So you can see it's possible to do tie-ins and cross promotions where it makes sense. I'll be inviting girlfriends, sorority sisters, family and mother/daughters. I'll keep you posted on how it goes! Until then, you've got to meet my gorgeous cowboy angels...

Do you have a transformation or alter-ego story to share? Questions? 

Good luck, whatever you call yourself.


  1. Whoa, Malena! You are a powerhouse!!

    I LOVE your pen name, and I love it even more now that I know that it was actually your own name in another life!!

    I've been toying with a YA novel myself. This post gives me the motivation to follow through with it. Now I just need the fabulous pen name....

    1. Brenda,
      Thank you! I like that the name is short and easy. And I love "Ls". Is that weird? Good luck on your YA. After writing so much in the 'adult' frame of mind, it was wonderful to slip back into the teen years with a fresh outlook and "coming of age" angle. If you have a short list of names, you know I'd be happy to throw my two-cents in. xo

    2. I totally don't!! I need a list of any kind, not just a short list. I was thinking that since I have two boys and I never got to use the girl names I'd picked out, I could use those!!

    3. Those baby name lists are precious. That's where I get some character names. My husband calls them my "soap opera" names. lol

  2. I'm crossing genres with my WIP and thinking of doing this, too! We'll have to start an alter-ego club. :)

  3. Congrats on BOTH books, Malena! They sound terrific ;).
    And I don't have an alter ego (yet...I've considered it!), but I do cross genres a fair bit. I love the adventure of writing new things!

  4. Great covers...and I don't have an alter ego, though I'm quite certain my students thought I did, and if I'm not mistaken, her name probably started with a B...

    But--I've wondered about using another name to cross genres. I guess the good news/bad news about not yet having hoards of followers is I wouldn't be leaving them behind.

    And how fun to be able to reinvent yourself. Something new to think about when I procrastinate.

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