Friday, January 8, 2010

I, Donna, take thee Author Name...

What name will appear on your book cover? Will you use a first initial? Include a middle name? Choose your nickname? Invent a pen name?

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and under brain-celled at the moment, so these are the somewhat easy writerly questions I enjoy pondering when the real stuff (revisions, synopses, agent lists, query letters) hurts my head.

"Donna Marie Gambale" --- Am I in trouble? So not cool.
"Donna M. Gambale" --- Too stuffy? Though "D. Gambale" could work...
Pen Name --- It would just add confusion to my life. Or I wouldn't be able to choose one.

But I'm the type of gal who will one day take her husband's last name. What if Husband comes before Book Deal? What if Future Husband's last name is catchy and un-mispronounce-able? (It's Gam-BAH-lee, by the way.)

* Another reason why absolutely everything in life relates to an episode of FRIENDS:
Meet Princess Consuela Bananahammock

As silly as the question is, it's kind of an important one...eventually. When you're impossibly successful and fledgling authors beg for your blurb, who will they be asking? And what name will you sign a million times on the title pages of your multiple bestsellers? (I recommend either a short name or a sloppy signature. Laurie Halse Anderson somehow signs every book SO beautifully... which makes me worship her awesomeness even more!)

For me, the answer is easy. I've wanted to be an author since I was six years old. And that shy little first grader with the overbite imagined "Donna Gambale" on the cover of her book, not "Donna [Insert Studmuffin Husband Last Name Here]" --- and no way will I crush the dreams of cute little six-year-old me.

Donna Gambale it is!

And by the way, many times when I'm in a library or bookstore, I find where my book would live on the shelves. Nothing's more fun than checking out my potential future neighbors! Hello, fellow G authors!

What's your author name? Even if you don't write, what would yours be?
What author's name can't you pronounce? For months I wasn't sure if it was pronounced Lauren "Miracle" or "Myracle." Apparently it's pronounced exactly how it looks: Myracle!
What's your favorite author name? Mine's Justine Larbalestier. I could say "Larbalestier" all day.
Who are your shelf neighbors? I'm near Neil Gaiman and the Luxe series author Anna Godberson. (By the way, you can read The Luxe for free!)


  1. I didn't have any real aspirations to write when I was six, so thankfully, I don't have a lifelong dream of seeing "Karen Hoffman" on a cover. But the middle initial would be a tough call. I really like my middle name, but it might clutter it up a bit...Karen D. Akins...Karen Akins. Hmmmm. lol

  2. I just stumbled onto your blog! :) *Hi*

    I have a very good friend who uses her maiden name as a pen name, and I was surprised to hear how much trouble it gave her -- tax wise, contract wise, etc. Something to consider if you're using a different name than your legal one.

    My first book comes out in July and it will say Amy Allgeyer Cook. Nobody can say 'Allgeyer', I know, though it's very simple: All-Guy-Er, with the emphasis on ALL. But Amy Cook is so common, I'm afraid people won't remember it.

    I had trouble with the pronunciation of Maggie Stiefvater's name. (It's Steve-Otter). My favorite author's name is Bree Despain. Isn't that just the coolest?? :)

  3. Karen - I like all of your possibilities! You got lucky in the name lottery. What's the middle name? Diana? Diedre? Daphne? :)

    Amy - Hi! We love new visitors, and thanks for commenting! I didn't know that a maiden name could cause so much trouble. And it's funny, I guess my maiden name would be my pen name... but right now, it's just my name! I'm sure more than a few authors have begun writing with one name (maiden or married) and then either got married or divorced... and maybe remarried again! I guess they usually stick with the original, so as not to confuse readers? I couldn't pronounce Maggie's name for awhile too, and Bree Despain = awesome name. And I completely agree -- keep the Allgeyer!

  4. I have a friend who chose a different last name, not husbands or maiden, and her reasons were she thought her last name was too hard to pronoun/spell.

    I decided to go with a modified first name because of spelling issues but also because I want to keep my "working" life separate from my private life.

    Not that I imagine I'll ever be as big as someone like Stephanie Meyers, but I wonder if she wishes she has used a pen name? I read an article once that she did play with the idea. I mean, how does she order anything online, or even order pizza? Everyone knows what she buys.

  5. I think I'm going to stick with Sara McClung. I'm married, so won't be changing the last name again...

    I could watch that Friends episode 10 times in a row. (Well, let's be honest... I could do that with every Friends episode!)

  6. The whole maiden name/married name discussion was one I had quite recently! I'm with you Donna--I told the husband that long before there was ever a boy, there was a book, so I'll definitely publish under my maiden name.

    For me, things get tricky with my middle name. I love my middle name (Thistle), but I feel like it could be cumersome as my maiden name is already kind of long and scary (Kankowski.) Sometimes I think about going the Harry Potter route and being S.T. Kankowski. Or sometimes just Sara Kankowski.

    Hopefully this will be a real-world problem for be v. v. soon! (and you too!)

  7. I sweated about this one for the longest time. Should I include my more literary (or at least literate) maiden name Webster in the mix? Were my first and last names more common, I might. But they're not, so I won't.

    Your name without the initial is more rhythmic. I like it! And I knew exactly how to pronounce your last name the first time I saw it, but that's probably because I'm in Philly and accustomed to Italian names.

  8. I've checked who I would be next to in the bookstore, and they are books/authors I've never heard of. This makes me sad. Not many people have last names that start with "I".

  9. I have actually been thinking about this, because I am married and my husband has a very ethnic last name that has now become mine. But it's not MY ethnicity. So my married last name gives the illusion that I am a nationality that I'm not. In life, I don't care...but if I ever got published it would be a different story.

  10. Elle - Let's call that the Ellis Island reason. But it's definitely a good one! Modified first name - interesting! And yes, I can imagine it would be odd if you were a wildly popular author.

    Sara - Woo another Friends fan! I'm permanently dedicated to that show. I'm surprised I haven't written a post solely dedicated to my love for it. Alright, one's definitely in the works!

    Sara K. - I can see you as an S.T. Kankowski. I do love Thistle!

    Laurel - Laurel Webster is a lovely name, and so is Laurel Garver. But yes, all three would be too much. And I can't believe you could actually pronounce my name! My whole life I've gotten "Gam-bale" or "Gamble."

    Mariah - Ok, then it's up to you to be the first super bestselling YA author with "I"! No pressure!

    Jessica - I never thought of that issue! Definitely something to consider. Thanks for sharing!

  11. The matter is exponentially complicated by the prospect of a pen name...
    Or is that cheating? Maybe we just have to work with what we're given.

    I'm sure you've already heard about James Chartrand, but if not...

  12. I'll be Heather Trese, which is my married name. If I'd gotten my book deal before I was married, I would have stuck with my maiden name. But Trese is a very unusual last name (although it's hard to pronounce...go ahead and try, and if you get it right I'll give you a blog cookie!), so I'm glad I got married...the book deal can come any day now :)

    I also can't/couldn't until Amy showed me how pronounce Maggie Stiefvater's name. My favorite author's name (well, one of them) is Libba Bray, because it sounds/looks almost like library, which I LOVE.

    I haven't checked my bookstore neighbors yet! But I will now!

  13. I love the random things you obsess over bc I do too, hehe. For a long time I thought I might be F.D. Mallis or F.D. Mills bc my grandfather, Frank (my namesake) was a writer, he used to have mystery stories published in magazines and he sometimes published as Frank Mills instead of Millman so it was going to be my way to honor him, but I realized using my last name helped with recognition and would make my life mor simple and then I worried about being Frankie bc sometimes people read that and think Im a boy and considering how girly my story is I figured Id better use my middle name since it helps let you know Im a girl, but then again I am now entering into Laurie Halse Anderson territory, so I had better get used to a looooooong signature. Ugh. But I do hope to change my name in my personal life soon when I meet the right person:-)

  14. Great post, Donna! I'm glad to hear you go to the bookstore and look at where your books will be on the shelves. That's exactly what aspiring writers are supposed to be doing.

    My problem is I'm too close to Jean Fritz (I've had sales reps and editors ask me if I'm related to her -- no, I'm not), but my maiden name is Rossmassler. Quite a mouthful for anyone. I've been Joanne R. Fritz for nearly as long as I was Joanne Rossmassler, so when I get published, it'll be with the married name, and that middle initial to make it a little more distinctive. I've also thought of going the J.K. Rowling route (hey, her name's Joanne!) and using J.R. Fritz.

    P.S. to Sara Kankowski: Sara, you're writing a fantasy and your middle name is THISTLE? And you don't want to USE it? "Sara Thistle" has a nice ring to it.

  15. I love Friends!

    Just a few months ago, I started writing under my maiden name, Dawn Simon. Before that, I was writing under my married/legal name, Dawn VanderMeer. I made a list of pros and cons (including where my books will fall on the shelf!), and decided I'd rather write under my maiden name. I have the URL for both, though, so I'll ultimately let my future agent decide. ;)

  16. What a great post...and a question I've thought about! I grew up as "Rachele Alpine," but my parents divorced and my mom raised me so I always thought it would be a cool tribute to use her maiden name and publish as "Rachele Hoeffler." However, the allure of having my future novel (well, my agent hasn't started subbing it yet, but I can think big) sit among the likes of Jay Asher, Laurie Halse Anderson and Avi is a pretty awesome thought!

  17. ManMadeofWords - Yes! The James Chartrand story is very interesting!

    Heather - Alright, since you said it's tricky, I'll guess "TRAY-see" or "TREE-see."

    Frankie - You HAVE to be "Frankie Diane Mallis"!

    Joanne - I like "Joanne R. Fritz" or "J.R. Fritz."

    Dawn - Another FRIENDS fan! And both of your author choices are great!

    Rachele - Ohhh I definitely think there are pluses to being near bestselling authors... I wonder if debut authors near Meyer got a sales boost from the extra attention.

  18. Personally, I never had the gall to change my name. I imagined telling my friends and watching a squinty look come into their eyes. 'So you want to call yourself Rapunzel Jones?' Maybe I'm too sensitive.

  19. author's name i CANNOT pronounce: Maggie Stiefvater. is that how it's even spelt?? *sigh* i give up..


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