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Why I Write Under a Pen Name

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October 16, 2015 by M. A. Dunham

One of the great things about attending writer conventions (Thank you, Conflux, for being home to my people) is the thought-provoking discussions. Which then lead to tangents, and here we are.

An attendee had asked why they couldn’t find me on Amazon, and it occurred to me, for the first time in awhile, that not everyone knows I write under my initials, M.A. Dunham.

Some people may think that’s not a ‘real’ pen name, but for people who know me as Marisol, it may as well be. And like other authors who use a fully different pen name, like Nora Roberts and J.K. Rowling, it serves a purpose. Although I am staunchly pro-feminist and a woman, the reality of publishing is that the average male reader picks up far fewer books written by women than men. Other studies have confirmed that people tend to prefer books written by their own gender rather than the opposite, and that, unfortunately for us who aren’t white, that getting your books considered seriously can rely on the color of the author’s skin.

Add to that the number of women versus men who get considered for (and win) the big awards like the Hugos, it’s clear we are a long way to fixing the glass ceiling in the publishing world.

Because I write in male dominated genres and I don’t have a particularly feminine style, making my writer name was a calculated move. I want people to pick up my books and check then out because they’re interesting and draw them in, not see my unusual first name or realize I’m a woman and put it down.

Is it frustrating to have to think of these things still in 2015? Yes. Am I still going to be practical? Absolutely.

To me, using a pen name doesn’t lessen my position as a woman or as someone who believes in feminism. I don’t care what gender people think of me as, I want people to consider my story ‘blind’.

The story is what matters to me, and that’s what I want to matter for my readers.


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