independent

Saturday 21 October 2017

Nom de plume required

By David Medcalf

Hello, my name is Derri Flacdem - or maybe not.

Let's go with Dannie Manorborn instead. Or try rolling Drew Meddlesome around the mouth. A pseudonym, an alias, a nom de plume is required.

According to this newspaper piece, successful writers are being published under all sorts of wonderful handles. So, if I want to have my long gestated novel even considered by Penguin or Picador, then I will have to enter negotiations fore-armed. The press article suggests that the executives on the other side of the table will be more interested in my moniker than my manuscript. I may have to reincarnate as Duch Midd-Calf, as Delhi Mysore or as Dali Munchen.

The peddlers of literature believe that women tend to prefer books written by women. Meanwhile, men have a leaning towards works which spring from the minds and the keyboards of their fellow men. The marketing folk reckon they are on a beano if they can de-sex their authors altogether and present them as neither male nor female.

The trend, as so much in modern publishing, was set by JK Rowling who pitched her Harry Potter series from behind a pair of androgynous initials. No doubt her close friends are happy to call her Joanne, hence the J, but the K was adopted for commercial purposes as a tribute to her late grandmother - Kathleen. As Rowling embarked on her wizard career, young boys were her most obvious target and she could not afford to scare the little chauvinists away from Hogwarts. Four hundred million books and eight hit movies later, all we can do is accept that the JK brand works.

The report in the paper cites another example of the two-lettered strategy, this time adopted by a fella who is keen to keep potential female customers onside. Yes, the writer who sells thrillers by the lorryload as SK Tremayne, with women at the heart of his plots, is known as Sean Thomas to his pals and to his bank manager. But the up-to-the minute approach is provided by the creation of Riley Sager, a character who is as much a work of fiction as anything that appears under that name. The author Todd Ritter decided put Riley Sager on the cover of his critically lauded output after consulting a list of 'gender neutral' names on the internet.

His is the template I must follow. I stumbled on a similar website in the course of my search for something suitably hormone free as I plan my own campaign for world domination of the bestseller charts. To be frank, it was American and pretty useless, at least insofar as there was nothing in the 'D' department that appealed greatly as a substitute for David.

Delta perhaps might suit at a stretch, though stuck obscurely between a river mouth and a Greek letter. Ho-hum. Dana may have no sex specific connotation in the US but in this part of the world it screams a little girl singing 'All Kinds of Everything'. Definite no-no. Dakota carries a whiff of 40 Shades, while Dorian is undoubtedly Gray, and Dylan has to be Bob. No, no, no. Which brings us back to Drew. Nice and snappy, Drew. But I have worries that Drew fails to hit the middle of the spectrum as required. Drew speaks to me of brawny Aussie Rules footballers. No again.

In search of inspiration, I wander among the shelves of the library at Medders Manor and ponder the authors who have appealed to me over the years. I was reared on Enid Blyton - a woman and proud of it. Later I read my share of Agatha Christie, going on to enjoy Patricia Cornwell, Annie Proulx Maeve Binchy...

The current obsession is lady called Donna Leon who explores the canals, cuisine and cadavers of Venice with her detective creation Guido Brunetti. Donna Leon is actually Donna Leon. I can make a case for authenticity.

But a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. If the publishers want to airbrush away my gonads before they hand over the big advance, then who am I to argue?

Back to the drawing board.

Daff Mulletova.

Disney Maelstrom.

Argh!

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