What’s in a name?

I do keep coming back to the problem of names and identity and authority, so forgive me if I am repeating myself slightly, but it is an issue that continues to run through my head at different angles. (these are just a few times I’ve approached it in the past).

Our names are one of the most intensely personal things about us. They can form the basis for our whole identity and people can get remarkably possessive over them. Names have magic and power. Cultures around the world have traditions of evil powers taking control over people by the use of their name – witches and wizards. Rumpelstiltskin was banished when his true name was revealed. To this day, many modern religions have taboos over the naming of god, thinking his “true name” is too sacred to speak aloud. Some feel it is considered bad luck to name a child before it is born, whilst in Christian traditions, children are baptised and formally made known to their god.

People often say “that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”, but really, Romeo is railing against the inevitable: it is Juliet’s “name that is [his] enemy”. No matter how he might wish it otherwise, they cannot be together because of what they are called. (And part of me suspects that she wouldn’t smell so sweet if calling her a rose didn’t make her so unobtainable).

We obsess over genealogy and family trees and our ancestors. We spend our lives with the names our parents give us, some more fortunately than others. I kid you not, I went to school with a Neil Down and a girl called Muffin. All through my childhood I thanked my parents for giving me a name that could not become a nickname, despite people’s best efforts to the contrary. At the same time, part of me does think it would be nice to have a nickname because they are signs of affection. Someone did call me Mercedes and refused to explain when others got confused. It was a joke between me and him and it felt all the more special for that.

In the end, I have given myself a nickname of sorts – Cas. The first few times someone said “do you want a cup of tea Cas?” and used the name to my face, it felt slightly odd, but I like it. What started out as just a way of keeping my ‘real’ identity secret, has become something more. Something I am very, very attached to. It has become a concrete identity in the last few years, crossing over from online mask to reality, and a name with its own weight of Bright Meadow and whatever attached authority has accrued, behind it.

Cas and CLK are now firmly linked – google one and you get the other, something which was a semi-conscious decision on my part. As the online became so intertwined with my offline life, it became harder and harder to keep the two separate, so I gave in gracefully and claimed as much of the CLK identity online as I could. It is still something I debate constantly though, and there are instances where I wish it hadn’t happened. There are times I wish my father didn’t read Bright Meadow, but at the same time, I do not like compartmentalising my life to the degree it would have required to keep it all apart.

So I tread a fine line between Cas and CLK, online and offline. Most of the time the two aren’t even distinct entities. Cas wears jeans to the office and has awesome tattoos, but it is CLK who answers the phones, draws up the contracts and is a consummate professional.

Names are important, clearly. Names of people, names of things. Names become brands and authorities and you build trust in a particular name. Which is where I finally get to my (sort of) point:

If, and it is a BIG if, I do ever finish what I am writing and go down the path of publishing, do I want my author-part to be linked to the rest? Do I want the world and their shark to hop from CLK the author, to Cas and Bright Meadow and all the attached kit’n’kaboodle? Or do I want something completely fresh, without a history. Do I want to write under a pseudonym? Is publisher CLK compatible with author X? I can hear a future editor yelling at me for tipping a whole pre-built brand down the toilet here, but is Bright Meadow a legacy an author could be proud of? Note, I am not saying *I* am not proud of it, but would it help or hinder in that sphere?

I stand by everything I have said on this blog, but I can think of more than a few things in the archives which would get one audience or another hot under their conservative collars. As an author, would I not also be entitled to a part of the web where I *could* unload and talk about the price of tea, if I so wished, without feeling the pressure of my audience? If CLK was to get published, Bright Meadow would come out regardless. I am not ready to loose this place as my sanctuary.

But do I want to create a whole NEW identity for my writing? I want to talk about it, god damn it! If it were ever to happen, getting a book published would be like the biggest blog event EVA!!!!! and to not share it with you lot here? Unthinkable. I want to think that one day someone from school might see “CLK” on the spine of a book in a bookshop and be jealous/proud.

For now, my gut reaction is gurgling “pseudonym” but am I right? Am I being silly? Am I being dishonest to my family, denying them seeing Kemp in print, refusing to connect part of my (potential) accomplishment to the name they graced me with when I was brought into this world. To go for a pseudonym, is that not saying “CLK is not good enough”?

15 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Whether to use a pen name is an interesting question, and one I’ve debated myself (not that it seems likely I’ll even finish the novel any time soon, much less publish it). I agree with your desire to have a semi-private corner to discuss things, even though it would be hard not to discuss publication in such a way that intrepid Googling readers could track you to Bright Meadow.

    You could consider making the Meadow private — setting up some sort of password limitations and only giving access to whatever reader base you have pre-publication. Although that would be a pain, I’m sure, and you might lose some readers in the process — not to mention forever making it impossible to reach new people.

    I’ll be curious what you decide to do. It’s quite the dilemma.

  2. Making Bright Meadow private is an option I guess, but it feels like it goes against everything I hold dear in the idea of an open internet and making connections to new people. You suggested the idea and instantly I was shaking my head going “No, that is NOT an option”.

    Really keen people are going to find you, whatever you put.

    I think the question I have to answer for myself is do I want to be in the scenario where I walk into a publishing meeting and everyone looks at me like I’ve got a silly hat on because I’ve just been outed as a trashy fantasy author!

  3. I’m with Tom, you just be you! I think that being a published author, even a ‘genre’ one, would be better for publishing than not, but I’m not in the industry, so I can’t say for sure!

    And could this anxiety be actually procrastination? ” I have decided to write the novel, but now I am worrying about who to be when I’ve written it….” – I’d get it written first. I reckon you’ll be so proud you’ll want it to be CLK on the spine 🙂

  4. Oh, and Tammy, Warren Ellis and Neil Gaiman (amongst others) are awesome authors who blog under their real names. Tammy uses her readers as a resource if she needs to remember some random tid-bit of continuity!

  5. Neko stole my point (although in doing so, created another, am I allowed to use real names in my comments?)

    If you like an author sometimes you want to read what they think about things, to see if you agree with them or not. It gives you a medium in which you can converse with your hero… um, I mean, favourite author and feel acknowledged as a fan. It’s nice being able to say ‘thank you for telling such wonderful stories’ and for that author to say ‘you’re welcome’.

    The precedent has already been set for authors to have successful blogs, you have nothing to worry about. When I’m published I don’t think I’ll have a problem with my blog being overloaded with fans, hatemail and flaming maybe… but not fans 🙂

  6. At the same time, isn’t CLK a bit pedestrian?

    Neko, you know me far too well! Yes mum, I shall stop making excuses and get on with writing…

    fulnic – but I don’t want ANY hatemail! Everyone is so nice here at Bright Meadow and I don’t want that to change. *sniff*

    As for real names in comments, I take my queue from what people have called themselves when they comment. Some people really do like their anonymity, and I respect that.

  7. I don’t think whether you link your blog to your book is really an issue. Your blog is already out there. You don’t know who is reading it now anyway, you only know who comments. You don’t get nasty comments on the blog now because anyone reading the site can tell that’s not accepted here. If it became a problem you could restrict the comments to registered members which gives you a little more control because you could block people if they’re nasty.

    I think the bigger problem for you is lack of confidence. You’re assuming that your book will be trashy. A Dan Brown of sci-fi that you will need to live down professionally. And you’re being silly. If you haven’t already noticed you write very well, which immediately increases the quality of any book. Plot-wise, you have the literary skills to know how to put it together and an army of people to test it out on (including new buddies in the publishing world) to find the hole. And you have the skills to fix the holes.

    So I’m with Neko – stop procrastinating. 🙂

  8. I think it was reading Dan Brown that made me think “well if HE can get published, so the frack can I!”

    Yes, I’m being silly, and I am stopping the procrastinating.

    Still half want a sexy pseudonym though, even if it isn’t super-secret.

  9. In the Philliipnes, they blend the first and second first names to create a nick name. Brother would be Tigo. I guess I would wind up as Toc or Toch. You on the other hand would be quite melifluous.

  10. *hides*…. well i can’t have you thinking I’m 100% wonderful! And I did realise shortly after posting 9but with no way to retract!) that I might be breaking your not- quite – a- rule- rule about no real names, as that gets a little close… but then google CLK and we get here anyways, so *shrug*… delete if it makes you uncomfortable ma cherie 🙂

  11. It’s not that, it’s just that I absolutely detest that contraction. It’s right up there with “ClaireBear” *shudder*

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