In For Writers

I’d be lying if I told you that I never considered adopting a pen name. Let’s be honest, Erika Liodice isn’t exactly the easiest name to remember, spell correctly, or pronounce. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that very few people can do all three.

Don’t believe me? Consider this…

I’ve been married for over eight years and my stepfather still forgets my last name. Normally, this wouldn’t matter, but he also happens to be my eye doctor. Let’s just say my patient file gets lost. A lot.

As for the spelling, nine times out of ten people spell my first name with a “c”. For the better part of my 31 years, my own grandfather addressed all of his cards and letters to Erica.

As for pronunciation? Forget it! No one says my last name right. I get a lot of Lie-oh-dice, Low-deece, and Lee-ohdis. The correct pronunciation? Lee-oh-deece.

Pretty, right?

Given this conundrum, I originally considered publishing under my maiden name – Erika Neilson – since it’s just so much easier. Plus, it had the added benefit of paying homage to my family. But there was just one piece missing: my husband. And I couldn’t ignore the fact that Dave has been my biggest supporter in all of this. He was the first person I told about my desire to write, the one who cheered me on through two manuscripts, and the one who convinced me to take the plunge and publish my work. I felt it was only right that he be represented in all of this.

For a split-second I considered going with Erika Neilson Liodice in hopes of squeezing in my family and my husband…but it just doesn’t have that concise ring, like the monosyllabic maiden names of Allison Winn Scotch or Kristin Bair O’Keeffe.

I considered scrapping the whole thing and publishing under a pen name but none of them ended up sounding as bestsellerly or cool as Sophie Kinsella (a.k.a. Madeleine Wickham), Janet Evanovich (a.k.a. Janet Schneider), or J.K. Rowling (a.k.a. Joanne Rowling).

In the end, I decided to use the name that is the best representation of who I am as a person and as a writer: my married name. If Jodi Picoult (pronounced PEA-koe) can rock a name that’s hard to remember, spell, and pronounce…well, maybe there’s hope for the rest of us.

What author name do you use?

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Showing 20 comments
  • Brianna

    I use my first and last name. People rarely spell or pronounce my name right. Nearly everyone who meets me defaults to calling me Bri with five minutes. I’m not planning to get married, so changing my name is a non-issue and I don’t think I’m creative enough to come up with a pen name.

    • Erika

      Ok, Bri, I’m gonna go out on a limb here…is your last name pronounced So-low-ski?

  • Jim

    I just use my name, Jim Woods. I never realized how lucky I am that my name is so simple. I have thought about using a pen name from time to time, just to test out my writing in different settings. To see how it goes over if it is not attached to me and to get a REALLY AUTHENTIC response. Send it to a friend and say, hey what do you think of this article? I know I’m an evil genius like that. Muahaha. 🙂

  • April Cummins-Kohl

    I use a hyphenated name. I didn’t think to make it “legal” when we took out our marriage license but adopted it soon after because I liked the way it sounded. I have less people mispronouncing my last name now, since Kohl’s department store came to town. Pronounced, “coal”.

    • Erika

      I like the alliteration of your hyphenated last name, April…very catchy! I’m also envious of your monosyballic married name. It definitely works well together.

  • Donna McBroom-Theriot

    I loved this post. I write under Donna McBroom-Theriot (maiden/married) and I don’t think it matters what your name is because how do you mispronounce McBroom? Theriot (Tear re o) I can understand and I do – a lot – everytime I answer the phone and someone ask for Mrs. Tear re ot (short i). Too funny. Just loved the post.

    • Erika

      I’ve been mentally pronouncing your last name wrong, Donna. I thought it was: Ther-ee-oh!

      I guess we “unpronouncables” just have to laugh!

  • Stacy S. Jensen

    Interesting discussion. I’m writing a memoir about a different time in my life with a different name. I decided to stick with my real name for the sake of continuity with the memoir and other projects.

    • Erika

      Great point, Stacy…writing a memoir adds a whole other dimension to determining which author name to use.

  • Linda Visman

    Interesting post Erika. I wasn’t sure which of my three surnames to use when I published “Ben’s Challenge”. I had my maiden name, Linda Thompson (nice and simple) for twenty years until my first marriage. Then it became Linda Holland.
    We divorced after about sixteen years and I asked my five sons if they’d agree to my going back to my original surname. They wanted me to have the same name as their, so I kept it for another twenty-two years (37 years in all).
    When I married again, I decided to take my husband’s surname, and became Linda Visman (another pronunciation problem – many people say ‘Vise-man’ when it is actually ‘Viz-man”).
    Dirk is the one who encouraged me to write, and has supported me all the way. To me, there was no other name to use on my work but Visman. As my book was originally aimed mostly at middle grade and teenage boys (though adults and girls love it too), I did a J.K. Rowling and published as L.M. Visman.
    Wow, that was a lengthy explanation! Names are an important issue though, and we need to be comfortable with our chosen one.

    • Erika

      I like the thought process that went into selecting your author name, Linda. From where I’m sitting it looks like you came up with a winner 🙂

  • Ashley Prince

    I am still torn on this. I have two different novels that I am working on. One is YA and the other is Urban Fantasy. I kind of want to do one name (Ashley Prince) for YA and another for UF. I still haven’t decided on that those. Also. I love my maiden name: McElyea. It’s beautiful, hard to pronounce, but I feel that that name is more “me.” I love my husband dearly, so I don’t know.

    I have a while before I have to decide though.

    • Erika

      I think “Ashley Prince” is a great author’s name…it’s easy to pronounce and spell, and there’s something catchy about it. How do you pronounce your maiden name? Mick-el-eeh-ah?

      You bring up an interesting point…is it a good strategy to publish different genres under names? Might post about this one…

  • david english

    hello..anyone know JODI PICOULT’S maiden name? write to me if you do..i want to interview her for the next book, and i need that name..david

  • S. C. Brock

    I decided to go with S. C. Brock, not because I am a woman, but because I finally realized that the people I want to emulate in my writing: J. K. Rowling, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien all did that. They initialed the first and middle names and went with their last. It never sounded right to me with my maiden name. So I am using the first part of my husbands last name. I get a name that is slightly different from my real one, but it still feels like me.

    I like the sound. All of us choose our names for different reasons. And I have a sister-in-law who spells her name Ericka but I am usually very good asking people how they spell their name and then writing it down to remember it. And I love the name Liodice, I pronounced it right, right at first impression. It is definitely unique and unusual, and it works well with your first name.

    • Erika

      I think S.C. Brock is a great author name. I’ve often wished that I had a monosyllabic last name; I think they sound powerful.

      Wow…you pronounced Liodice the first time? You might be the only person in history. I always get “Lie-oh-dice” or “Lie-oh-de-cee”. 🙂


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  • Jessica

    What happens if I publish a book under my maiden name, but then I get married. What do I do then? Do I change my name for future works, all (previous and future) works, or keep my maiden name? Lol #singlewriterproblems.
    Thanks! Very nice article 🙂

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