Tag Archives: novels

Strategic Pseudonyms: An Overview of Women Authors

I had written this post in March, because March was not only reading month, but it was also women’s history month. Unfortunately that didn’t work out. Rather than scrapping this, I realized that confining conversations about women’s history to one month is ludicrous. I’m not interested in relegating women’s voices to one month, especially in context of this post, which talks about one aspect of the road female authors have had to trek: adopting male, and more recently, ambiguous pen names in order to legitimize or ensure success for their works.

bronte_sistersIt won’t come as a surprise to many that female authors have historically had to navigate sexism and prejudice in order to publish; upon submitting poetry for publication, Charlotte Bronte was advised that women had no place in literature. In their time all three Bronte sisters (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne) published under male pen names (Currer, Acton, and Ellis; I’ll refrain from commenting on name choice there).

Other well known authors of yore you might know under male pen names: author of Middlemarch, Mary Ann Evans, who published as George Eliot; George Sand, known for writing Valentine and Indiana, was in fact Amantine Lucile Aurore Dudevant. And while Louisa May Alcott did publish Little Women under her own name, some of her early publications were written under the pen name A.M. Barnard.

Post 19th Century a variation on this trend emerged with female authors adopting ambiguous pen names using initials or androgynous names. A great example of this is Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, whose name is Nelle Harper Lee. Another would be Pamela Lyndon Travers, who published Mary Poppins as P.L. Travers.

jd_robbThis is a trend we still see today. J.K. Rowling has published both under a male pen name (Robert Galbriath, crime novel The Cuckoo’s Calling), and was asked to publish the Harry Potter series as J.K. rather than Joanne after being advised that using initials would help attract male readership. Prolific romance author Nora Roberts has been publishing her crime series, the In Death books (there are currently 50, which she’s been publishing since 1995), under the pseudonym J.D. Robb. Even 50 Shades of Grey author, Erika Leonard, did this (E.L. James)

These are only a few examples of women who have struggled to have their voices heard as a result of their sex. Looking back historically, this might not come as a shock. From this vantage a history of sexism is clearer–hindsight and all of that. What is more troubling to me is the current trend in the publishing industry of removing gender from particular genres under the idea that attaching a female name will detract from readership, particularly those targeted at male audiences, such as crime novels.

Curl Up With Something Yummy for Valentine’s Day

A good book!

Rumor has it that Valentine’s Day was just upon us. Rumor, I say, because Valentine’s Day has never been my thing: I’m a romance year round kind of person. And while lots of people like to get their romance on with a partner, I’ll admit I’m picky enough that I want  the freedom to chose my own adventure.

In honor of Valentine’s, or if you’re like me, simply because you’re an addict, I thought I’d share some romantic book recommendations based on what I’ve been reading lately.  If the thought of romance or Valentine’s Day fills you with horror, come find me and I can recommend something suitably edgy and decidedly non-romantic.

chefs_tableFor some lighter, yet adult romantic reading, I’d recommend Chef’s Table, by Lynn Charles. In it we meet Executive Chef Evan Stanford and Patrick Sullivan, the head cook at Johnny’s Diner. Over the course of their careers and lives they’ve each lost sight of something – for Evan, the connection to his roots and Patrick, passion and drive that take him beyond the contentment of diner cooking. Evan meets Patrick when he’s feeling burnt out and disconnected from what he loves, and in him sees an enjoyment in cooking he hasn’t felt in a while. Shared interests become friendship which then turn into romance. Enjoyably, this book won’t put you through the ringer; instead in it we get two characters falling in love and challenging each other to achieve and enrich their dreams. This book is a light read, romantic, sexy, and a great mental getaway.

selection_cassIf you’re in the mood for something fun and romantic and dig Young and New Adult, I’d recommend the Selection Series, by Kierra Cass.  Here we have your usual dystopian world, but this one is more of a dystopia meets The Bachelor setup.  Thirty five girls are selected from various castes to come live in the Palace and “compete” for Prince Maxom’s heart. Sounds swell right? Any girl would die for this…except maybe American Singer, for whom being selected means leaving behind the boy she loves and a family that depends on her income for survival.  This series was a fast read, and despite the rebel attacks, very fun.

mcrae_malteseMaybe you’re feeling like you want love with a little grit, or romance with a little edge? I recently read the first two books of what’s going to be a six book series – Starling and Doves, from the Love in Los Angeles series by co-writers Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae. In Starling we meet Alex Cook, a PA on who works on a primetime TV show. When the showrunner of The Fourth Estate plucks him from behind the camera, Alex quickly, and resentfully, becomes a star. He quickly falls into a relationship with Paul, one of the show’s main writers, and just as quickly baggage they’re both carrying pulls things apart. This book is written in a more spare style and definitely breaks some romance novel conventions. These books get a bonus for inclusion of polyamorous characters, which I never see. I will warn that they both, especially Doves, have some darker themes.

outlander_gabaldonIf you are really dying to know what my favorite romance of all time is? Head over to read Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. Picture this: the year is 1945 and Claire and Frank Randall, recently reunited after years of service in the war, are on their second honeymoon in Scotland. You’ll have to bear with me for the part where I tell you that Claire accidentally falls back through time to 1743, because while time travel might not be your bag, but I think that’s just because you haven’t met Jamie Fraser. This book (and series) is rich with historical detail and intrigue, and the start of my favorite romantic pairing of all time.  Espionage? Check. War? Check? Hilarious, frustrating, infuriating, terrifying, mesmerizing and loveable characters? Check.

load_the_dice_gemelLast but not least, for those of you how want to get your kink on for the holiday, I’m going to recommend the episodic book, Load The Dice, by Moriah Gemel. If you’re curious about BDSM, or want to read something that really focuses on important community structures – such as Safe, Sane and Consensual BDSM – as well as a romantic kinky story, maybe skip going out to see 50 Shades of Grey for a more responsible portrayal of this lifestyle. It’s sexy as heck, it’s a character study, it examines the development of trust and love, and it’s very well written.

Regardless of where your holiday takes you – to bed with a good book in my case – I hope you enjoy your romance responsibly!