The Pen Name: A Shield to accompany the Literary Sword?

My newest non-fictional effort!  Before I get started just wanted to thank WordPress for making me Freshly Pressed on Thursday!  And to thank all of you who took time to read, and comment on, my post ‘So Am I an Author Yet?’ Incredible reactions from everyone, will try my best to live up to expectations!

C-C xx

The Pen Name : A Shield to accompany the Literary Sword?

We’ve all heard countless times how the pen is mightier than the sword.

But in this day and age, where someone’s dirty, and not so dirty, laundry can be hung out to dry on the internet in a matter of minutes, do authors now need a shield to accompany their metaphorical sword?

It’s a question close to my heart, because obviously I’m intent on writing under a pen name of sorts.

‘C-C Lester’ isn’t a pseudonym.  However, it’s also not what my closest friends call me … In fact, the only people to have ever called me ‘C-C’ were the members of my university cricket team, because that was how my name appeared on the scorecard!

However, C-C is the name which I have chosen to write under.  Something my lovely agent Lucy Dundas queried early on in our partnership.

Because thanks to J.K. Rowling, it seems everyone wants to have two initials!  And the publishing world are getting rather sick of it!

Most avid readers and authors will know exactly why ‘Jo’ became ‘J.K’.  Bloomsbury feared that male readers would be put off by a female author, and so asked her to use her two initials. However, she only had one, and so added the initial from her favourite grandmother’s name, Kathleen, to become the legendary  ‘J.K.’

My reasons for become C-C are a little more complicated.

For a start, they are both actually my initials.  My parents had a bit of a thing for long names, and so I was born Charlotte-Cristina Lester, a fact very few of my friends even know, because all my life I have been called Charly.

C-C Lester was the tag on my school uniform.  The adult I always felt that ‘childhood me’ might grow into.  My parents only ever called me Charly, but told me I had an extra-long double-barreled ‘real name’, in case when I was older I wanted to use a ‘girl’s name’!

I didn’t.

However, I did always find something cool in the fact I had a hyphen where most people simply had a space.  To me it sounded rather epic and mysterious, and reminiscent of C.S. Lewis, one of my favourite childhood authors.  Even though even he wasn’t lucky enough to have that hyphen!

As I discussed briefly in my last post, I was a child who grew up writing, and longing to share my stories with the world.  And so in my head, ‘C-C Lester’ was the future writer me.  Whose clothes I was merely growing into!

However, when Lucy came to ask me why exactly I was writing under ‘C-C’, my main, and probably most convincing reason, was privacy.  In the cyber-world we live in today, it takes a matter of seconds to enter someone’s name into Google, and dredge up all kinds of information about them.  Thanks to the Cosmopolitan Ultimate Woman Award, which I received a few years ago, a LOT of my personal information was put into the public domain without my say-so, including my then address, and the very detailed description of how my parents died.

These weren’t necessarily things which I wanted people reading my books to know about me, or to associate with my work.

I was also quite keen to keep my broadcast journalism projects, namely my You Tube channel ‘Challenge Charly’ separate from my writing efforts.

One of my favourite high school teachers once gave an assembly about women juggling ‘lots of hats’.  The lover, the friend, the artist, the career woman, the mother etc etc…

And so, when I finished my first novel ‘Flicker’, I made a decision.  I wanted to wear a different hat when I was an author.  I wanted author ‘me’ to be C-C, and the rest of me to be scooped up under the name ‘Charly’.

I wanted to protect Clark Kent’s truths, behind Superman’s badge.

Except the problem was that no one had ever heard of my Superman!

It’s all well and good protecting your real identity, if your pen name has great exposure.  But one of the things I gradually came to realise, was that my ‘Clark Kent’ side – the part of me behind the writer’s mask, was actually pretty special too!  And perhaps those other aspects of my personality – my love of travel and adventure, my tenacity and positivity in the face of a really rather awful tragedy – were things which might inspire others in the same way I hoped that my fiction might too.

In a later post, I hope to write about my influences for each of the books, and the aspects of my own life which affected those stories.  And so, perhaps it is best that my readers see me as both Charly AND C-C Lester.

Check out my YouTube Channel and let me know what you think!  (And those of you who posted comments yesterday assuming I was a man, hopefully the video will clear that one up!)

So, now you all know my name.  You know the Clark Kent behind my Superman … or should I say, Superwoman?!

And yet, I will still continue to write behind the name of my favourite superhero.  Because I am really excited about my journey to becoming C-C Lester.  To becoming the adult, who that little girl in the baggy school uniform could only dream of being.  I’m excited about the opportunity to wear the hat of writer, or author, or whatever you want to classify it as.  And to explore all the experience which that hat provides me with!

What started out as a shield, is no longer necessary as one.  Instead, for me at least, it has become both a passport, and a destination.

In a number of the comments to my ‘So am I an Author yet?’ post, people discussed the journey of the writer – from conception to publication.  Well ‘C-C Lester’ is both a passport, allowing me on my personal journey – the side of me housing my immense passion and determination to write – and also the final destination – the writer I want to be, and have always wanted to be.

Thank you for continuing to join me on that journey!

C-C xx



Filed under C-C Lester, General, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

16 responses to “The Pen Name: A Shield to accompany the Literary Sword?

  1. You’ve done it again! Great post today!

    I can definitely relate to this, because Isabella isn’t my real name. I write under a pseudonym for several reasons.

    1) My name is Chauncey, which most of the time gets confused with Chelsea, Chezley or something that isn’t even close.

    2) My genre is Chick Lit/Romance, with an occasional scenes of erotica, and I didn’t want my name to be associated with anything that would come close to that. (I was the nerdy girl in high school, and I’m sure that those “popular girls” still don’t think that I know what sex is).

    3) The last reason I write with a pen name is that it allows myself to put those fantasies I have in my head on paper, making for a much more of a celebrity lifestyle!

    • LOL I especially like reason 3 (though 2 definitely made me giggle!)
      One thing I left out of the post was something I actually picked up watching Queer as Folk (I watch A LOT of trash TV when I’m writing!). Two characters, an artist and a musician, were talking about how when they get truly involved in their art, it’s as if they are channelling someone else. I have definitely had experiences where, having looked back at my writing the next day, or a few months later, I’m genuinely shocked at how good it sounds, or don’t even remember writing sections. It’s like someone else wrote those things, even though I know they came from my own hands – almost like having multiple personalities, rather than just multiple hats! I guess multiple personalities is definitely a way to live a celebrity lifestyle with at least one of your personalities 😉
      C-C xx

  2. Interesting post, and again I can relate. I decided to use a pen name for two reasons, maybe three. Privacy was a concern. Also, my real last name is WAY too common (we’re talking page after page after page in the phone book). But there was also the thrill of choosing a new name. One of the things I most enjoyed when I started writing fiction was inventing people (and places) and assigning them names. So how cool was it to be able to name myself! “Winslow” seemed perfect. It sounded English (which fit with the fact that I’m writing in a Jane Austen style), but it crosses the pond and links to Washington State, where I live, since there’s a picturesque town by that name near Seattle. Having an alter ego gets a bit complicated, though. Which name to use where? Who am I today? I like your solution: we each wear many hats.

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  4. I love your post and your reference to one of my fav authors, C.S. Lewis. His real name was Clive Staples, but his friends called him Jack. I think I’d like my friends to call me Jack.

    • ha ha you know I never even thought to look at what his real name was! I guess there was no Wikipedia in the 80s 🙂
      C.S. Lewis is WAY more glamorous than Clive Staples! Now I understand 🙂
      C-C xx

  5. my fingers are covered in mud from my bonfire. so this will be short. i only came inside for a cuppa. but i write under this pen name as my other ‘day job’ name is too recognisable. but i am enjoying being laura. a whole new life – who needs clones?
    ps I see your subscribe button is there now 😉

  6. Very interesting post! It is staggering how much information about a person exists in cyberspace, especially the amount unknown to said person. I find it quite interesting though how different aspects of oneself can be tied to the different names by which we go. There are distinct identities and roles tied to each name and how those are tied to specific phases of the life course is very interesting. At what point do you put away Charly and don the sophistication of C-C, and does Charly emerge like a photo album in quiet moments shared with those you trust. How much of the “we” of which one is comprised over a lifetime is wrapped up in our label? Love reading your posts!

    • Hi Ty, Glad to hear you’re enjoying the posts 🙂
      Rather fittingly, today I did a nannying job for a family who hired me over Craigslist, and when I met them the first thing the dad said was ‘we liked your video blog’ (ie Challenge Charly, something which doesnt even have my surname attached). Not only was he openly admitting to google-stalking me, but the comment also revealed how easy it is to find stuff out about me in a matter of minutes.
      At the moment I like to think Charly is reserved for my personal life – what my friends call me. I love your simile of a photo album. Though you’re right about the changes we go through over a lifetime – I have a friend called Victoria, who was Victoria in primary school, Vikki in secondary school, and Ria at university. I can definitely understand this acknowledgment of the change of identity.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment,
      C-C xx

  7. swriter12

    You are right, that post really did help explain the Brit’s obsession with initials. For me, blogging with anonymity was due to the fact that older ventures of mine into cyberspace led to a lot of spam. Though I am published, it’s not under my birth name, a fact my parents cannot stand. What I was born into and who I am are two very different people and I feel that the way I have changed my name represents that. With the spelling of the name I have taken on it does one of two things a) makes me stand out or b) makes it look like I’m trying to stand out. So far I’ve had a positive response to my self-imposed “pen” name of sorts, but for now I’ll remain swriter12 on WordPress, in which swriter stands for screenwriter and the 12 the year of my graduation.

    • Your comment about your parents is interesting – I think that having lost my parents is one of the reasons I feel so strongly about writing under C-C, because despite them calling me Charly all my life, they still gave me a double-barreled name for their own reasons (not that I necessarily understand them!) and so it’s a bit of a testament to them to use my real given name to some degree … whilst also allowing some departure from ‘every day’ me 🙂
      C-C xx

  8. I always wanted to have a pen name when I was a kid. It sounded so interesting an sophisticated… almost a bit like detective work (which was my second career choice after writer and before scientist when I was a kid). The problem was choosing a pen name! I already have two nick names that go with my name (Mira and Ella) but the name has so much family meaning linked to it that I hate having people who didn’t know my grandmother(for who i was named) call me it. I also can’t imagine using another name because I can’t imagine NOT having that little bit of my grandma with me wherever I go. Like a living legacy.

    I still imagine having a pen name someday and having been an author, walking down the eisle in a Barnes and Noble or Chapters or some little bookstore in a tucked away town, seeing one of my books on the shelf, perhaps not recognising the new cover art from the new publishers, but then spotting my name and having this little secret and world to myself. Maybe I have a teenage daughter with me and she picks out one of the books and begines to read it thinking ti looks interesting, then turns to the back flap and notices the pictures. WHen I see this, mom me maybe says “Woops, busted” letting her in on a little secret and life goes on… (day dreams for Elle to enter :P)

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