What’s in a name?

After attending a romance writing workshop this weekend, I left with a question humming around in my head: to take or not to take a pen name?

This is territory I’ve covered before and easily dismissed, but on Saturday, as I listened to our workshop speaker address the subject matter, I quickly experienced a change of heart. There is merit in being able to compartmentalize your life from your passion/work.

I know, it sounds strange, doesn’t it? Why would you want to change your name? Don’t you want everyone you love – the world – to know its you who wrote the book? And the obvious answer is: yes. However, in this world we live in, especially now thanks to the ever shrinking boundaries due to social media, there really isn’t any privacy any more. People drop your name into Google and before you know it, your entire life is at their fingertips.

Not such a big deal when it’s just a handful. It becomes a much larger issue when those numbers escalate. And as a mother of two small children, do I really want to risk their privacy being invaded as well? Do I want to wake up in the mornings and find strange emails from even stranger individuals who’d tracked me down? Because lets face it, my name isn’t as common as Jane Smith.

In fact, when I’d first joined Facebook and I’d typed in my name – ran a search, the results came back with a grand total of one. Me. Kind of a  stalker’s wet dream, isn’t it?

Now, I know. Perhaps I’m putting the cart before the horse. No published works means no readers, no fans and therefore no potential crazies. But I’m hoping to be published some day. And the rest will arguably follow. So, it’s in my best interests to change my name now. Which I have done. Keeping my first name, because its…well, me and I want to still feel like me and not someone else entirely.

So that just left the last name. Which wasn’t such a big deal for me to change as it’s my biological sperm donor’s name (he may have helped make me, but ‘father’ isn’t a title he’s earned or deserved since he did none of the raising), so cutting that out of the picture wasn’t so hard to do. The only question remained: what name to pick?

Being a writer, I have to think of character names all the time. Funny how easy it is to think of a name for your characters, but this was a decision I could see myself agonizing over. I didn’t want to pick anything I’ve previously used in my writing, because those names wouldn’t feel right. I’d feel like I was appropriating something that didn’t belong to me, so that cut out a lot of names that I really, really liked.

Then I found myself drawing upon some rather odd choices:

Rogue (because she was my fave X-men and utterly bad ass), Hannigan (leapt into my head almost as soon as I thought of Rogue, not sure why), Hale (again, no idea where it came from), Sorcha (who didn’t love Willow?)…and then I stalled. None of those were going to cut it. There was no flow. No symmetry with my name. It didn’t roll off the tongue and felt stilted and so obviously made up I couldn’t imagine it would inspire someone to pick my book off of a shelf, let alone take me seriously.

So, back to the drawing board. And then it struck me like one of my son’s wayward fists at 3am.

De Mornay. I’d remembered loving the Disney’s Three Musketeers. If you haven’t watched it then I highly recommend you do. To this day, I stand by the claim that Keifer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen and Oliver Platt were the best portrayal of the trio to date. Anyhow, I digress. In that film there was a female character, My Lady De Winter played by the stunning and talented Rebecca De Mornay. I remember seeing her name flash on screen during that movie and it leaving this lasting impression of awe.

Such an incredible, exotic and intriguing name, at least to the kid I was, and it always stuck with me. So, I tried it out. Rolling the syllables together, stretching them out. Savouring the feel of the name as I linked it with mine.

Fallon. De Mornay. Fallon De Mornay. Faaaaaaallon DeMoooooornay.

I  felt that spark. That click I’d been waiting for, sort of the same way I’d felt in that moment I said my childrens’ names aloud for the first time when I held them in my arms. It fits. It works. It feels like me (which is the most important element). I can envision myself walking into a room full of writers (and hopefully one day: fans!) and introducing myself as Fallon De Mornay without blushing in shame or embarrassment.

So, my advice to anyone else who might be considering a nom du plume, take a moment to assess what attracts you? What matters to you? And what touched your heart as a child? Think about and assess, but don’t overdue it lest you fall into an epileptic fit of analysis paralysis.

Once you find something, sit on it for a day or two, then come back to it. Say the name aloud. Whisper it. Shout it. Prattle it off in an accent. And, of course, hit Google to make sure there isn’t someone else out there with the same name. Don’t want to share the hits on Google with them, do you?

And if all the categories come out int the green, then jump in and make the change. I come to terms in about 24 hours. And already I’m wondering why the heck I didn’t do this sooner?

Ta for now! Time to dig in to my homemade ricotta gnocchi.


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