Pen Names–In Defiance of Compromise

I’m not afraid to wade into controversy, but I was a little surprised by the passionate reactions to a question I asked on social media yesterday about using pen names.

 

penn

 

My original post went like this: Recently I was discussing pen names with a fellow author. She thinks they are fine and give an author leeway to write in different genres without losing fans or confusing them. Ooooookay. My argument is too many authors nowadays seem to use pen names to play both sides of the moral fence. Specifically, if an author is a follower of Christ shouldn’t everything they write reflect that world view–if not the Gospel–no matter the genre or pen name?

Read that last sentence again. If an author is a follower of Christ shouldn’t everything they write reflect that world view–if not the Gospel–no matter the genre or pen name?

My answer to the question is simply, yes. Reflect it. Not necessarily preach it, hammer it, shout it or even mention Jesus by name. But write a story that is grounded in a Biblical worldview.

If an author is a follower of Christ shouldn’t everything they write reflect that world view–if not the Gospel–no matter the genre or pen name?

I am seeing too many authors using pen names to write, frankly, some pretty ungodly stuff. Sweet, clean novels posted and sold in Christian fiction circles, and the author actively works to develop a following of readers who like her work. Then that same author turns around, changes her name and writes some pretty steamy–even erotic–stuff, or other types of stories that DO NOT ultimately glorify God. I have a problem with this. I feel betrayed. Used. Lied to.

In the discussion over on one of the bigger Christian groups, folks were quick to point out that pen names serve a lot of purposes–they protect a writer’s private life, family details, security clearances, certain relationships. Also, some authors argue, they don’t want to offend a fan who likes them for one particular genre by accidentally pulling them into a book in a different genre. Therefore, different names are a signal this is a book in a different genre.

I certainly don’t mean to imply that I am the Pen Name Police. Yes, authors certainly CAN write in any genre. They SHOULD write in any genre. But if you call yourself a follower of Christ, it is my argument a reader should ALWAYS be able to expect certain values to be a foundation in your work–for example, your book shouldn’t condone or glorify sin of any kind. And THAT is the crux of my argument. Some of these pen names are simply being used to mask, obfuscate, hide the true heart of the author.

So, as far as my work goes, it may not always be pretty. Sometimes it will be gritty. Occasionally, I go outside my genre. Heck, my stories may not win any awards, but the rock beneath my keyboard is Christ. Period.

 

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About Heather Frey Blanton

"I believe Christian fiction should be messy and gritty, because the human condition is ... and God loves us anyway." -- Heather Blanton

Posted on April 24, 2019, in Ladies in Defiance and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. AMEN! Love this. You nailed it – keep that Biblical view and Christ as the rock of your stories! I can understand a pen name to keep your privacy – so you don’t get stalkers or crazed fans showing up on your door.

  2. I completely agree with you.

    • Thanks, MaryEllen. I appreciate that. I was surprised by the number of authors trying to convince me with a pen name you can write anything you want any way you want. I disagree, as a slave to Christ. ❤

  3. Paula Shreckhise

    I agree that if you call yourself a Christian then your writing should reflect Christ and Godly values. I can see a use for a pen name…. if your name is odd or unpronounceable. Security, privacy, etc. i know of an author who uses a pen name BECAUSE her real name is the same as one who writes steamy stuff and she doesn’t want to be mistaken. If you want to change names for different genres, you could use your initials or a variation of your name but still be recognizable.

    • I agree completely. In my case, I think my readers are smart enough to read and decide for themselves if one of my books might appeal to them. While I stick MOSTLY to Westerns in some form or fashion, I have enjoyed my time travel pieces and they have been well received. Personally, I think it’s b/c I have bonded with my readers over more than just a setting or century. It’s our values. That is why For the Love of Liberty has done so well! Praise God!

  4. I appreciate your stand. I do not understand how a Christian can separate any part of their lives from a sincere devotion to Christ.
    I always feel saddened and disappointed when I read a book (perhaps suggested by a ‘clean’ author) and find I must forgo the rest, because I do not feel reading the text would be pleasing to God or helpful for maintaining a holy life.
    I just don’t want those scenes chasing through my mind….
    Thank you for the books you write. I have throughly enjoyed each one. As a Christian, I don’t need the gospel message explained on every page, but I do desire to read about moral characters that think about the consequences of their action and follow what is right.

  5. If an author has a dirty mind, they are not following Christ!

  6. This is so timely and from time to time struggle with personally. As a narrator and a christian, I have passed on the opportunity to produce certain audio work because the content didn’t match..well,…me..my moral compass. Some may argue, it’s only a story, and doesn’t change who I am. But, it will…it does. Authors are passionate about the characters and worlds they create. I need to be just as passionate and give life to their work.

    I love what I do. Why? Because it is a gift that I have chosen to give back to the Lord. My daily life is full of choices…which movies to watch, books to read, jobs to apply for, people to reach out to or pray for. In everything, I need to listen for His prompting and be ready to share His love, His word.

    I’m learning every day, the armor of God is a choice. Do I put it on? Can I live this day without it? This past Sunday my pastor asked, ‘Who do you say God is?’. My reply…He is the way, the truth and the light and I will try every day to live my life this way.

    • Leonor, I have no idea why this comment suddenly decided to pop-up, but thanks for commenting. Yes, as followers we certainly do have to make choices. You keep the faith, girl. He’ll reward your integrity for sure!

  7. I have a pen name because another author shares my name, and we don’t seem to have the same values or write the same kinds of things. I don’t want my readers disappointed or confused. My pen name is something of an open secret. I don’t care who knows who I am. I don’t evangelize much in my work. But everything is rooted in my faith. It all springs from the same well. I couldn’t do it any other way.

  8. Some Christian publishers ask authors to change names because they are writing in a different genre, even if the author is writing the same Christian world-view. Also the sad old norm that men might not read fiction from a female still holds true. History or SciFi or Fantasy (even with a Christian world view) often needs a gender-neutral name to sell.

  9. Well written and I agree with you 100%!!

  10. you are absolutely right!

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