Recently, an editor accidentally sent me some documents with my legal name in the byline. It was half my fault for not making it clear enough, but it brought home just how important it is to separate the two.
I started using my pseudonym before I took up writing. Until recently, I presented a show on hospital radio and promoted my middle to my last name, becoming Gavin Cameron. It sounds clearer through a microphone than my actual name Gavin Cruickshank, and more people know how to pronounce the written form correctly.
Let me point out that this was before David Cameron was elected. Despite the connections, it’s proved useful in writing because I work full-time and it helps keep a clear separation between the two.
I do think that if a writer uses a pen name, for whatever reason, he or she should inhabit the name and adopt the character. I occasionally read authors introducing themselves as, for instance, John Smith writing as Joe Public. Why craft a pen name if you’re going to break the illusion? I did it in this entry purely to demonstrate a point, but in a book or story, I would never explain Gavin Cruickshank writing as Gavin Cameron.
But I can think of one person who has done this successfully, and with a double pseudonym. Rapper Marshall Mathers goes by the stage name Eminem, but refers to himself as Slim Shady in his music. When you’re listening to his albums, he does it so naturally that you simply don’t question it.
I don’t think Mathers/Eminem/Shady reads this blog, but if he does, well done those men.