The following article appeared in the Roscommon Herald earlier this year. I reproduce it here after discovering there are at least 100 (yes, you read right!) people called Louise Cole on Facebook. And I’m not really one of them – although I do have a Facebook presence. So you might understand why I’m so touchy about the middle letter in my moniker. And I checked: the underwear model is still there, doing her thing…
When I had the opportunity to read some of my poetry at Listowel Writers’ Week in Kerry recently, I was thrilled. But then the compere got my name wrong – instead of Louise he called me Denise!
Luckily, I was able to set the record straight before I began – and related the story of how I write under the name Louise G Cole, the middle letter being key because if you Google ‘Louise Cole’ you get a raven-haired skimpy underwear model. Clearly, she isn’t me (I’m blonde, see), but if you add the ‘G’ to my moniker, Google finds me.
It set me thinking about names and their glorious possibilities.
I once I edited a little health magazine which was pitifully short of contributors, so I used to write most of the content myself. I became Persephone Braithwaite, Felicity Burton Latimer and Veronica Whitcliffe for some of the articles, just to make it look like we had lots of writers on our books. I can’t remember how I chose the names, except to say Burton Latimer is a village in Northamptonshire where they make Weetabix!
Many writers use pen names; JK Rowling famously started publishing crime novels as Robert Galbraith which not surprisingly, became way more popular when word got out. You have to wonder why she still continues with that name now that everyone knows. When she penned the Harry Potter books (I can’t believe the first one was out 20 years ago), Rowling chose to use initials in her name, to hint the books were written by a man, so that boys might be inclined to read them. She’s really Joanne Rowling – and had to acquire an extra letter because she doesn’t have a middle name; she chose K for her grandmother, Kathleen.
Some writers changed their name because of the times they were in: George Elliot was really Mary Anne Evans writing in a man’s world in the 1800s, and the Bronte sisters had a go at writing under male names as Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.
In the 1970s, comic actor Ronnie Barker wrote scripts as Gerald Wiley for fear of saturating the market with his own name, which is something prolific author Stephen King was aware of when he published as Richard Bachman. In 1984 ‘Thinner’ by Bachman sold 28,000 copies for its first print run, then ten times that number when the author’s true identity was revealed.
Plenty of celebrities, as well as writers, were born with names they changed in order to make it big: John Wayne was really Marion Morrison, Judy Garland was Frances Ethel Gumm, Elton John started out as Reginald Kenneth Dwight.
Joseph Conrad is certainly less of a mouthful than Teodor JK Korzeniowski, then there’s Dr Seuss who was really Theodor Geisel, and Lewis Carroll who began life as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.
Me? I’m just happy to get the ‘G’ included. And it’s for Gillian, if you’d really like to know.