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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

To Name or not Two Name(s)

 George Guthridge

Okay, to the point: I am trying to decide whether to use a pseudonym and, if so, how close it should come to my real name.  And I am asking for opinions.
My dilemma.  The last time I looked, I was male.  I could ask my wife her opinion on the maleness thing, but she’s at work and besides I would have to buy wine. 
The problem is that I have returned to writing fiction after a long hiatus, and I want to write romantic suspense with an anthropological bent. 
At the Emerald City Conference I asked several writers their opinions about a man’s name on a book cover.  Their responses approximated the vampire sign.
The answer seems simple.  Use a woman’s name. Except it isn’t that simple.  Because I was four times a national award finalist in science fiction, fantasy, and creative nonfiction, and won the world award as a horror novelist.  Those were the equivalent of Ritas, not local contests.
Assuming I can sell a romance novel, for sales reasons I want to strip World Award Winner onto the cover.  It sells books.  Plus some people may buy the book because they read something else I wrote and liked it.  Okay, maybe no one liked my books, but I just thought I’d throw that out into the wind.
Cherry Adair, whose work I admire (and whose plots and settings are close to what I am writing) suggested I use my last name but change the first to a woman’s or else use initials.
I have toyed with GG Guthridge, Gigi Guthridge, and, at a friend’s suggestion, GiGi Guthridge.  I like the initials thing or something akin to it, especially since my friend George RR Martin always has insisted his career wouldn’t have taken off without “Railroad” in the middle.  (Maybe talent had a little to do with it; who knows?) 
The problem: Guthridge isn’t romantic.
People by that name are, but that’s not the same.
Backstory One: I used to think the name is German, and (especially given that I spent 12 years writing three books about the Holocaust), I lived with a lot of guilt.  Then my elder daughter – who did not read one, repeat not one, book until she was working on a doctorate – began reading myriad books on genealogy, and found out we are Swiss.  Scotch-English on my mother’s side – I’m a direct descendant of William Brewster, the head of the Mayflower and, more importantly, also directly related to the Mayflower Madam – but on my father’s side I come from people who like to make watches and chocolate rather than wage war.  In other words, we make time and take time.
About a week ago my wife and I flew into Anchorage, the nearest place with a decent restaurant, for a Valentine’s dinner.  She wanted to eat at the restaurant atop the Captain Cook Hotel, because it has an incredible view of the city and the sea, and because I’m well-insured: they bring out the defibrillator when they bring you the bill.
I never drink unless I’m alone or with someone, so after a Bailey’s and coffee, two bloody Mary’s (named by Hemingway in honor of his wife, by the way), and another Bailey’s and coffee, I came up with Georgi, which I realize is a man’s name in Eastern Europe but which also can be a woman’s name. I googled it at the hotel; the first hit was a website with a sexy woman selling negligees. Okay!
Then in the morning my wife called me “Georgie Khaa,” which she uses when she’s being sweet or when I’m about to get saddled with another honeydo project.
For that you need some exposition.
Noi is Thai.  In the Thai language, “khaa” is the polite expression woman use.  Men use “khrap,” often shortened to “kop.”  Those particles are similar to “usted” in Spanish, or, more distantly, to “sir” in English.  Except in Thai they’re used a lot.  I am clueless, even after 17 years of marriage, why they occur in some sentences and not in others, and even Noi can’t tell me.  One of those first-language things.
Backstory Two: As a child my family sometimes called me Georgie.  I endured a couple of years of hazing as “Georgie Porgy” until classmates realized that “kissed the girls and made them cry” was going to elicit the response of  “kissed the girls and they liked it.” 
A few minutes later I said, “How about Georgi Khaa” as a pseudonym?
Noi, who reads romances in two languages (and whose idea it was for me to start writing romances), loved it.  We both agreed that “Khaa” is visually catchy, and a quick check on the Net revealed that no one’s using it for fiction. Plus to Noi and me it means “sweetheart.” 
The downside is the world award thing, but I was thinking that it can be stripped on anyway.  Cashing checks and the other usual worries about pseudonyms aren’t problems with me.  So the biggest downside is that it doesn’t pull in previous readers, assuming any still exist. But I also read an interview in RWA with a woman who uses different names depending on the genre.
So. I have narrowed the choices to –
GiGi Guthridge
Georgi Guthridge
Georgi Khaa
What’s your opinion?

--George.   Or Georgi.  Or GiGi.  Or “Hay U” (a name most husbands have in common).



Judith Ashley said...

Hi George - I use my legal first and middle names as my pen name. That way I'm sure I'll answer! The bonus is that I now think of Judith Ashley in the positive as I only heard that moniker from either of my parents when I was in deep Trouble.

I like G.G. Guthridge - not one of your final choices but there are many authors who use initials. JD Robb comes to mind -

One thing I've seen some authors do is put links on their website to their 'other' names so that people can find them and check it out if they are interested.

While many husbands may answer to "Hay U", I'd forgo that one.

Tam Linsey said...

I like G.G. Guthridge, as well, but you have to choose what speaks to your heart. This is romance, after all!
Your dilemma about the World Award is a tough one. But I believe you will be drawing a very different crowd with romance novels than those who read your sci-fi and horror. In fact, in various critique circles, I've found sci-fi readers are often turned off by novels that smack of the type of writing so many romance readers prefer.
If it were me, I'd wait and get my agent and/or editor's opinion on the matter. If you are self-publishing, well - you're on your own! (With a little help from your friends and wife.)

Tam Linsey said...

Oh, and by the way, I use a variation on my middle name for my nom de plume like Judith does. Mostly because my real last name is often mispronounced "sleeze" and I really didn't think that would be appropriate unless I was writing porn. Which I don't.