Why do I need a pen name? Why do I need more than one?
The simple answer is I don’t. But the fact is that I thought I did, and I tried different stories with different names, including my real name. I also wrote different projects which I wanted to separate from the others. I write most of my books under the pen name Christoffer Petersen. I chose it because of my Danish connections and because it fit the genre.
Historically, many authors have chosen names to avoid discrimination, to try out different genres, or for a whole host of reasons. Today, however, algorithms are a good reason to use a pen name. Readers who enjoy my crime stories might not enjoy my science fiction, fantasy – you name it. But I enjoy reading and writing all kinds of genres, and pen names give me the option to explore them, without crossover or “contamination”. For example, readers of Icelandic crime books discovered my crime books set in Greenland. It was a good fit. The Steampunk books I wrote several years ago were not. They messed up the algorithms. When so much of my content is online and the online world (and the real world, too, for better or worse) is steered by algorithms, then, unfortunately, it is something to be considered when publishing books this century.
Pen names also allow for a more relaxed approach to a new genre or story. I had fun as Zoe McGuire, writing a pandemic/apocalypse story before the corona virus changed our world as we know it. Very few people have read or even know of End of the Line. Last year I changed the author name back to Christoffer Petersen. I don’t plan on writing more stories as Zoe McGuire.
Also, I started out with Steampunk. I love those books I wrote as Chris Paton, but I’m not entirely sure what to do with them yet. I don’t think readers are either. 😉
Then there’s the non-fiction book I wrote with a friend, based on a family kayak adventure from Copenhagen to Istanbul. I wrote that one as Christopher Paton.
And there was that moment when I had a go at writing science fiction erotica. I think I’ll keep that name secret, if you don’t mind. Only one book so far, and I’m not sure there will be another. Fun story, though, so who knows?
I’m going to build a page for each pen name on this website, updating when I have the time, starting with Bran Nicholls.
Pen Names I have used/am currently using include: