So, I had arrived at the decision to pick a pen name. What to chose? It's kind of intoxicating, the freedom to rename yourself. Names are an inherent part of our personality and how others perceive us. Right off the bat, I decided I was going to follow some rules:
- No initials. Some of the best, and saddest, advice I've ever heard given to female writers is, "If you want to be taken seriously, use a pseudonym with initials. People will think you're a man, and you'll sell better." Yay, feminism! Using initials, though, is a really good idea if you're writing in the traditionally male dominated fields of literary fiction, mystery/crime, or horror. It's not fair, but there you have it. I wasn't going to be writing in those fields, though. I wanted to write erotic romance, and more to the point, I knew I was going to be writing some of my stories about gay men. I didn't want to seem like I was a pretending to be a gay dude, writing stories from a place of experience. So, initials were right out.
- No puns. When I was in high school, I read a book about fairies, written by Hugh Mynn. Say that out loud. At the time, I thought it was super clever. This was when I was in high school. Recently, I learned that there is an author out there named Paige Turner. Say it out loud. If people were going to groan at my pen name, they probably wouldn't get further than the cover. No puns.
- Nothing impossibly exotic. When people meet me at an event, I didn't want them to be saying, "You're Anastasia Von Sexington?" with incredulity. I can't live up to that name. A lot of authors can't live up to the extremely unique pen names they set for themselves. I know, because I've met them. Confronted with a woman in a too-tight t-shirt with her own book's cover stretched out of shape over her bosom, unkempt, graying hair sticking out in all directions above horn-rimmed (and not ironically) glasses, I would be the one saying, "Are you sure you're Sinsual Divine?" I'd save names like Elisabetta Sable and Nissy Vixen for drunken fanfic writing. I am no Sinsual Divine.
- Nothing someone had already taken. I googled my pen name, to make sure there wasn't another person out there with the same one, or one that's very, very similar. Point of fact, I did the same thing when I started out with my own name. It's just polite.
- No smooshing together celebrity names. Cameron Cruise, we all know what you did.
So, with those in mind, I came up with Abigail Barnette. I like Abigail Barnette, because she sounds like she could run for city council. B-sounds inspire confidence in me. So does the hard consonant at the end of her last name. Abigail Barnette seems successful and self-assured. Perhaps too self-assured. When people meet me, they probably think, "Are you sure you're Abigail Barnette."
And then I admit it's just a pen name, and I tell them I'm Jennifer Armintrout, and they ask me if that's a Native American name. True story.