Saturday, 18 July 2009

Writing under a pseudonym

Sometimes it's such a relief to get something off your chest! That's how I feel now that my publisher has agreed it's OK to reveal my 'double life' as a writer-under-a-pseudonym.

It's been a well-kept secret for over two years now; during that time it's been fun, if at times challenging! - being two people at once. I'd already had five novels published under my real name (Sheila Norton) when I wrote 'Tales from a Hen Weekend' . My editor decided this was a particularly strong idea that could lead to a new series, so she wanted to 're-brand' me under a new name - without linking the two names, until the Olivia name was sufficiently established.

And now - with the publication of the third book in the series, I've been given the go-ahead to 'come clean'. It's good finally to drop the secrecy, and has given me the chance to do some promotion of the latest book myself, without having to wear a mask whenever I go out! (I'm joking, of course, but when the previous two books were launched I couldn't actually make any public appearances as Olivia in my local area where people already knew me by my real name).

It's been an interesting experience - one I never anticipated when I started writing, as I was always happy using my real name. But I've now given two talks on the subject of writing under a pseudonym so I have a new area of 'expertise'!

I'm sure there are lots of other writers out there who use a pseudonym - or maybe more than one pseudonym! - and probably for lots of different reasons. I'd love to hear from anyone who wants to share their experiences.


  1. I've been intrigued wondering what your real name is and if I'd recognise it - and I do!
    Thank you for revealing yourself, Sheila (feels funny to call you that!) - how did you decide on Olivia Ryan?
    When I was a budding writer I planned to write under the name of Charley Macey as it was a kind of nickname when I was a child, but I've never used it.
    I've just finished Hen Weekend - loved it. I would have read it sooner but my husband got to it first!

  2. Hi, Olivia - I mean Sheila! Well done on outing yourself! I've never used a pseudoname. I don't know why - maybe I should. I'll have to think of one!!

    I am going to order Hen Weekend on Tuesday so I can read it in the garden over the summer )if we get any clement weather!)

    Julie xx

  3. Thank you Teresa - how nice to be recognised!
    You can call me whichever (or whatever) you like! The name was a joint decision between me and my editor. I was asked to go to a meeting armed with a list of first names and surnames that I liked - and we then played around with them to find a combination that we both thought sounded good. I'm so glad you enjoyed Hen Weekend!

    And thanks Julie. Yes, it feels quite strange to be outing myself, after all the secrecy that's gone on up till now! Personally I wouldn't have bothered with a pseudonym if it hadn't been the suggestion of my publisher, in order to market this new series of books. Ooh, I hope you enjoy Hen Weekend, too!


  4. Do I call you Olivia or Shelia? Olivia I guess as this is "Olivia's Oracle."
    It must be very confusing.
    Can I tell people that I know the authors Olivia Ryan and Sheila Norton? I know of at leats one person who will be impressed.
    More power to your pen.

  5. I'll answer to anything, GB - and yes, it has been very confusing - my poor old brain has had a rough time of it! I keep forgetting who I am! You can tell everyone, and please do (!) - as I have officially been given permission to 'come out' now. As my most recent books are under the Olivia Ryan name, I will probably continue to be known mainly by this name in my writing life,but who knows?? Anything may happen, I suppose! I still write short stories as Sheila Norton, as I already had contacts in the magazine world before changing my name, and I thought it would be good to keep that name 'alive'. Thanks for your support and interest. I was wondering how people would react when they found out I'd been acting as a bit of a secret squirrel!

  6. That's so interesting! I read The Travel Bug last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, and was flipping through Tales from a Hen Weekend when it came into the library recently - I had no idea they were by the same person :o)

  7. Oh - I'm really glad you said that, Karen! All through this 'secret' stuff, I've been wondering whether people would actually pick up books by my 'other self' and think 'Ha! I know who this is!' We're too close to our own work, aren't we, to tell whether the styles are so obviously the same, or not.
    Glad you enjoyed The Travel Bug. xx

  8. Hi,
    Interesting post!
    I've always enjoyed your mag stories, so it's nice to be able to put a face to the name/names.