Friday, 5 February 2010

Which pen name sounds best?

Now that I’m actually launching my career as a writer – not just by writing, reading, blogging and fantasizing, but by actually offering my manuscript to agents and publishers – it’s time to put some serious thought in a pen name.
When I started publishing my Dutch short stories on De Verhalensite and, I used the pseudonym Guirlande F. because I thought it sounded elegant and mysterious and that was how I wanted to write.
When I took my development as a writer to a new level and signed up for an MA in Creative Writing, it was only natural that I should use my own name, Deborah Klaassen. But when the assistant at the NHS misheard my surname as Clarkson and was unpleasantly confused when I started spelling my for her, it dawned on me that my ultimately Dutch name wouldn’t do very well on the cover of English books.
Perhaps it would be better if I spelled my name phonetically in English. Good Anglifications would be Deborah Clarkson, Debs Clarkson or Debbie Clarkson. Though I think Debbie would kill my career in The Netherlands because that abbreviation is strictly for the lower class.
Speaking of class…. That could be a derivation of my family name. Deborah Class. Sounds classy, no?
The other day, someone in the office called me Bella by mistake. It happens to be my mum’s first name, and I actually think “Bella Clarkson” sounds better than Deborah Clarkson, because of the repeated L. That’s what they call alliteration.
But technically, Bella is not my name. I do have a second and a third name, though: Martha Elizabeth. Now, Lizzy has an L in it, and Lizzy Clarkson sounds pretty good too.
Or perhaps I could use my mother’s maiden name, as family ties are more authentic than phonetical similarity. What about Deborah Mendes or Lizzy Mendes?
I’ve lost it… I honestly don’t know what to choose… So what do you think sounds best? I’m also open for new suggestions!

Which pen names sound best?
Deborah Class
Guirlande F.
Deborah Mendes
Debs Clarkson
Lizzy Mendes
Deborah Clarkson
Lizzy Clarkson
Bella Clarkson
Deborah Klaassen free polls


  1. You should certainly use 'Deborah' because your fans will want to address you by your real first name. If there's a problem with Klaasen, how about the surname 'Kay', which is a phonetic spelling of the letter K? Deborah Kay sounds good to me.

  2. Sorry, that should have been Klaassen!

  3. I agree with Gorilla Bananas. Keep your first name. It's who you are.
    I also agree with his assessment of your last name. Kay is easy to spell for every one, recognisable, and it has the added bonus of going well with Deborah.
    Deborah Kay, definitely a writer!

  4. Makes sense... and it's true, that sounds good too... But I read this piece on the subliminal messages that names carry with them, and apparently it's a bad thing to have your name start with a K because it's a strike-out:

    (at least, when you're playing baseball; Across more than 90 years of professional baseball, batters with K initials struck out at a higher rate (in 18.8% of their plate appearances) than the remaining batters (17.2%), t(6395) = 3.08, p = .002)

    The same research also warns agains having a name start with a C or D, though, because "despite the pervasive desire to achieve high grades, students with an unconsciously-driven fondness for C’s and D’s were slightly less successful at achieving their conscious goal."

  5. Agree with GB, stick to who you are.

  6. Wat dacht je van Deborah Brown? Als je dat afkort wordt het Deb Brown, dat klinkt meteen bekend!

  7. It's bad enough that I can't choose... did I have to come across this quote by John Keats?

    “If you should have a boy do not christen him John—'Tis a bad name and goes against a man. If my name had been Edmund I should have been more fortunate.”

    What about Debbie Darling?

  8. Hi Deborah,

    I voted for Deborah Clarkson. It just sounds right.

    Love your website!

  9. Hiya,

    Its been forever! Just my two pence worth - debsm debby and lizzy - dont do it to yourself! chick lit names ;)
    good luck x

  10. If you write horror, "Klaassen" is perfect: you'll be sandwiched between Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

  11. @ Madame De Farge - I think you're right. My book is about how you can't replace your roots and identity, and that you can only damage yourself trying. So I probably should take a stand and stick to my own name.

    @Judith: thanks for dropping by! Yeah, I quite liked Clarkson - that's pretty much how I pronounce it here anyway. But as Jamie points out, Klaassen has it's advantages too...
    I hadn't even thought of that!

    Long time no see, Sarah! How have you been?

  12. Hi, to also put a duit in the bag and bye the adage that writing is deleting: why not simply keep it Deborah? some of the best got away with it in the past and it avoids all trouble with a surname, possibly dressed up to ""Lady Deborah" or "Miss Deborah". Very hip and now-generation-like I'd say :)
    bye Grignon