To Pen Name or Not to Pen Name?

To Pen Name or Not to Pen Name?

That is the question.

When I started out on this crazy author journey (for real…I had no idea what I was getting myself into until I was totally committed), I spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not I could use my real name on my books.

Authors use pen names for a variety of reasons. They allow the author to conceal his or her identity, and to write freely in the genre of his or her choice. There are numerous examples of women writing under a man’s name because it was the only way she could hope to get published; all three Bronte sisters started their careers as the Bell brothers. Others see their pseudonym as their alter ego, like Stephen King’s Richard Bachman.

My reasons really aren’t that glamorous. I’m not opposed to putting my real name on my books, but my given name is hard for people. It’s rare for someone who doesn’t know me to spell or pronounce my last name correctly. Using a pseudonym allowed me to find something unique that is easy to spell, pronounce and remember; and anything that’s good for my readers is good for me.

Because I use a pseudonym, I’m often asked the same two questions: why (which I talked about above), and how did I come up with my pen name? What was my inspiration?

That’s a pretty cute story, actually. When I was in the second grade, back in the early 1980s, my teacher gave us a project where each little eight-year-old in the class received his/her very own egg to take care of. The assignment was simple: take care of the egg like it’s a baby. Feed the egg. Change the egg’s diaper. Don’t leave the egg alone. Put the egg to bed. And most importantly…

DON’T BREAK THE EGG. Bring it back to school after one week, fully intact.

My teacher, Mrs. Brenda Kuester — who I thought was the most beautiful lady I’d ever seen, and who had the most beautiful name I’d ever heard — even took the class down to the Williams County (North Dakota) courthouse in Williston to stand before a real live judge and “adopt” these egg-babies. And you can’t adopt an egg-baby that doesn’t have a proper name.

Of course I was going to name my egg Brenda, after my beautiful teacher. Duh.

As for Lyne, well…"Lynn" was a wildly popular middle name for girls at the time, and I liked the sound — but I didn’t like the conventional spelling. Replacing that last N with an E made it so much more exotic and beautiful, just like my teacher. And my egg.

Thirty-some years later, when I was mulling the idea of a pseudonym, memories of the egg I “adopted” and the name I gave it all that time ago came flooding back — and I knew that I had found my pen name (even if “Brenda” sounds kind of old-ladyish to my much more experienced ears nowadays). It was easy to read, pronounce, and spell. And best of all, it was completely unique; getting a domain for my author website ( was a piece of cake.

So Brenda Lyne was born.

And yes…I believe I did manage to make it through the full week with an intact egg. At least, that’s how I prefer to remember it. :)

I wish I could find Mrs. Kuester, tell her how much of an impact she made on my life that over thirty years later a memory from my time as a student in her second grade class would help me establish myself as a mystery fiction author. Someday, maybe. Someday.

Back to blog