What’s in a Pen Name? ~ Outside the Margins with Clare London

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Clare London OtM

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare coined the phrase, as he has with so many other apt sayings in our language.

I’ve recently started attending meetings at the Romantic Novelists Association, here in the UK. And what a lovely, welcoming, and hardworking bunch of people they are! Many are published authors, some aspiring, some working on their craft through a period of years. And one interesting topic that resonated with me was the need for a pen name.
Many of these aspiring authors are writing fiction under their real names. Why not? you may ask. They’re proud of what they do, all their family and friends know they’re writing, and they may already have an online presence to promote their writing. And if you’re personal friends with published authors, how many of them do you think have “real” names that you reckon would be a wonderful pen name? I can think of at least 6 of my friends who have lovely, author-ly real names LOL.

There are all kinds of reasons for choosing a pen name, and maybe one of the most common is the wish to separate a writing life from a rest-of-my-life. And that’s not always just because you write erotica, or m/m romance. I chose a pen name because (i) my real name’s NOT one of those glamorous, artistic names g (ii) I liked the idea of a new online persona, and (iii) I was at first nervous of any “bleed” over from my mm erotic romance writing world into normal daily life. “Real Me” is a lot more than “Clare London, author” and I like the idea of separating them by a named brand.

So how do we choose a name, and what pitfalls should we look out for? Here are a few tips that I hope will amuse and enlighten you LOL.
Signing: do you really want to sign books – and hopefully you’ll be doing that, one day! – as Isabellarina de Whateverinmacioni? Or is it better to be Izzy Whatever? (and I’d better claim that name before any of you grab her for yourselves LOL).

Porn Star: it’s a fun game, creating a stripper name from your road / first pet / mother’s maiden name etc. But do you really want to be on the Booker list as “Bare Bottom Grills”?

Meet ‘n Greet: is it a name people can greet you by? You may well meet readers and fellow authors in the future. Will they be embarrassed to call “Toesucker!” across a crowded room? Or will they even be able to pronounce “Zhrzth’naaei”?

Just You: you need something as unique as you can be. No, JK Rowling is already taken. Darles Chickens could be mistaken for another cough famous author. Although I’m tempted by Austen Janes…

Branding: you need this name to be YOURS on a website / facebook / twitter account etc. Inevitably, FamousAuthor.com – and equivalents – will already be taken. Choose another name if there’s more chance for mistaking. Do you really want to be known as StephenKing#327 or YourName#1?

Whatever you choose, it’ll become as part of you as your Real Name. I’d hate it to become an Albatross around your neck in years to come – so choose wisely, and have fun!

~Clare London


Title: A Twist and Two Balls
Author: Clare London
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: 08/01/2014
Cover Artist: Lou Harper


Eduardo Mancini is going to be a star of the London stage and screen. Or that was the plan. His alter ego Eddy March hasn’t got further than the chorus and a bit part in a TV series. His parents aren’t supportive, his agent can’t place his particular skills, and he’s finding it hard to hang onto his young dreams. Things go from bad to worse when he’s late for an important audition, hasn’t got enough money to pay the taxi fare, and is chased across the streets of Soho by the irate driver.

Eddy reaches what he believes is sanctuary – With A Kick, a store where ice creams are blended with alcohol and imagination, and where his friends can help him. But Nuri the taxi driver is persistent in his steady pursuit, above and beyond the money he’s owed. Despite their very different characters and background, Eddy and Nuri’s relationship goes from a complete unknown to a wary balancing act. There are still mistakes to be made, and hurdles to clear. And both of them have to admit that their life so far hasn’t gone the way they planned.

But maybe being caught by Nuri was just what Eddy needed – both for his job and his heart.


He thrust his handful of money at the driver with all the confidence he could muster, and scrambled out of the cab. The uneven cobbles tripped him, and he bumped into a couple of tourists as he tried to right himself. Now he needed to scarper, and fast, before the cash was counted and the shortfall discovered. In his mind, he saw himself turn and run like the wind, like the Chariots of Fire opening sequence, though not in slow motion, of course, and without the benefit of proper sports clothing because he was in his audition gear, that is, trousers a little too tight since Christmas, and his favourite jacket that was always going to be too hot for this time of year—

A hand landed on his arm before he’d taken the first leap forward from the imaginary sound of the starting pistol.

“It’s not enough,” the cabbie said. He’d followed Eduardo out of the cab.

Eduardo looked into deep, dark brown eyes set under heavy brows. The man’s skin was dark, his jaw line and upper lip covered by similarly dark hair. Eduardo couldn’t get away from the dark theme, and he wasn’t thinking of his preferred type of boyfriend. The grip on his arm was tight and the cabbie obviously wasn’t letting him go.

“I’m late for an appointment,” Eduardo said. That wasn’t a tremble in his voice, was it? “You must let me go. At once.”

“No,” the cabbie said. His voice was strangely calm, but the deep tone made him sound so much more assertive than Eduardo. Eduardo felt a warm, roiling feeling in his gut. He was trapped! It was like one of the new breed of police thrillers, the hero chased to the end of a dank, pitch black alley, then turning to face his erstwhile attacker with nothing to defend himself except…

Eduardo tightened his grip on his messenger bag. As if that were going to protect him, as if his copy of The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit could be used as a club, as if a selection of emery boards or his smartphone stylus could possibly morph into his own personal lightsaber. No, he was trapped, alone, defenceless, and hidden in the depths of gangland—

Except, actually, he was pressed back against the side of a London black cab in broad daylight in one of the most populated tourist areas. Even so, the trapped feeling persisted. The cabbie’s chest was broad and his biceps bulged out from under a tee shirt that had presumably shrunk in the wash. His throat was sinewy, and hair from his chest curled up and over his low neckline. With a further frisson of shock, Eduardo realised he was forced back against a flat surface by a positive bear of a man. Delicious. His libido was liable to wake up and lick its lips, although Eddy would have kicked himself at this inappropriate reaction if he thought his legs could work normally. Instead, his whole body was shaking and he felt more than a tad nauseous.

“Please,” he said. “I must go.” How long did he have until the audition closed its doors? Would they still see him if he were beaten and bruised, maybe even bleeding? He wasn’t sure that was acceptable for a revival of one of Noel Coward’s mannered social commentaries.

“What’s your name?” The cabbie’s voice was a soft growl in the back of his throat.

“Eduardo Mancini.”


“Excuse me?”

The cabbie frowned. “You’re Spanish?”

What? “No.”

“Yet you have a Spanish name.”

Eduardo tried bluster. “I hardly see why it’s any business of yours what my name is.”

“I will need it for the police,” the cabbie said, quite coolly.

Eduardo gaped. “You’re calling the police?”

“You owe me my fare. I cannot allow passengers to cheat me.”

“I’m not cheating you! I mean, I know I’m a little short of funds right at this exact moment, but I assure you I can find you fair recompense if you give me a little time.” Eduardo wondered why, when he needed to blush to order for a particular role, he always found it so bloody difficult. Right now, he felt as hot as if he’d stepped into the Sahara. Lawrence of Arabia, anyone? He must salt this ghastly experience away for future reference on the stage.

“Fair recompense?”

There was a strange rumble underlying the cabbie’s reply. Eduardo took a moment to recognise what the noise was, drowning out the ticking of the cab’s engine and a screech of chatter from a passing group of teenagers. He was laughing. Laughing at Eduardo!

“You are an actor, yes?”

Eduardo blinked. “Yes. I mean, how—? But yes, I am.” For a brief, bemused moment, his courage returned. He wasn’t above using his public exposure for private gain, let alone defence. “Maybe you’ve seen me act? I was in the chorus of Blood Brothers for a few weeks.” Until the proper cast member returned from his drying-out spell, that was. “What about TV? I was in an episode of Casualty last year.” He felt his head go up, instinctively showing his better profile. “And that advert for toothpaste? I’m the man who crunches the apple at the end.”

“I have not seen you on TV.” The cabbie leaned in harder, his arm across Eduardo’s chest, effectively cutting off his words. All Eduardo could do was take shallow gasps, breathing in the aroma of warm skin mixed with the hint of spicy flavoured breath. “I don’t watch TV. I work.”

Eduardo suspected that criticism was aimed at him, but was damned if he was in any position to complain. He huffed and pushed ineffectually at the strong arms, and rather surprisingly, the cabbie let him go and stepped back. But only one step.

“You hurt me,” Eduardo croaked. “That’s assault!”

The cabbie started to laugh again. The sound was loud and uninhibited, his chest shaking with it. “But yes, of course you’re an actor! You are so melodramatic.”

Well, duh. But Eduardo didn’t explain that came with the territory. He didn’t say anything, in fact, just started to back into the busy street behind him. He could cut across into Charing Cross Road and then sprint up to Shaftesbury Circus, and just maybe he’d be in time to catch the tail end of the audition and no one would know he’d only just arrived. He turned and started walking briskly away.

Two streets later, he was starting to wheeze with the effort of rushing but trying to look as if he wasn’t, when a warm, cumin-flavoured smell wafted across his senses again. He whirled around and found himself nose to nose with the cabbie. “What the hell? Why are you following me?”

The cabbie raised his eyebrows. “What do you expect me to do? Not only do you not pay the fare, but now you try to run away.”

“Of course I’m not trying to run away!” A young couple on the pavement glanced quickly over at the two men arguing, and a rickshaw cyclist wobbled on his seat as he passed. Eduardo knew his voice was too loud. He sounded borderline hysterical, too, as if he were in the last act of a Tennessee Williams play. Well, any act, to be honest: he’d always played them at drama school rather close to the emotional edge.

He turned abruptly, deciding to cut through Chinatown, but the cabbie still followed. Eduardo imagined he could hear the steady footsteps on the pavement behind him, despite the babble of other street noises. He swerved around two more corners and suddenly lost his already precarious sense of direction. Bloody hell. He realised he was heading back towards the original place where he got out of the cab. Yes, there it was, parked neatly at the kerb, lights and engine off as if there’d never been any problem at all.

And his pursuer was still behind him.


A Twist and Two Balls on Goodreads
Self Published
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
All Romance eBooks

About Clare London

Clare took the pen name London from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with the weekly wash, waiting for the far distant day when she can afford to give up her day job as an accountant. She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy.  Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters.
Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter 3 stage and plenty of other projects in mind . . . she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.
All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello!


Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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4 thoughts on “What’s in a Pen Name? ~ Outside the Margins with Clare London

  1. That’s exactly why I use a pen name. The RNA members’ openness about their pen names & who they’re writing as struck me too. I like to keep the two parts of my life separate. And it meant I could choose a name people can pronounce rather than my real surname. Liam was Dad’s best childhood friend, ‘uncle Liam’ we used to call him. And Livings is Mum’s maiden name. The BF & I drew a short list of pen names & picked from that. Such fun!
    As I said to the lovely RNA-ers, Clare knew me before I was Liam Livings! 🙂

  2. I can totally understand wanting to keep one part of your life separate from the rest of your life. I like the branding part. I have noticed that some of the better known authors, seem to have almost copycats in the hopes, I think of readers making a mistake – and I have actually done it once. I am very careful now, although there was nothing wrong with learning a new author. Something I noticed when I was younger was how the author’s name on the book cover didn’t match the name on the inside and maybe the authors didn’t care if you knew, who would look unless you bought the book, but people who didn’t like the genre probably would never see the connection anyway. I think now, you wouldn’t see that very often. And really, who didn’t wish for a different name than their parents picked?

  3. Another timely talk from Clare London. Judging from the excerpt, she has another winner on her hands.

  4. I sometimes wish I’d used my real first name at least, or a shorter version of it. Because it can be quite strange answering to a different first name. I feel like I’m undercover. But I’m used to it now.

    Oddly, my name was once misprinted in the page header of and anthology I was in as Betty Black – which if I had used a variation on my real first name could potentially have been my pen name! How very meta. 😀

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