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10 Famous Pen Names and the Real People Behind Them

Over the years, many amazing writers have chosen to use pen names instead of their real names. This decision is prompted by a number of factors including separating personal life from the author life, privacy, and creating an author brand, among others.

1. Pen name: Robert Galbraith, Real name: J.K. Rowling - (Joanne Rowling)

When it was revealed that it was actually the famous author J.K. Rowling behind the book The Cuckoo’s Calling, published under the name Robert Galbraith, she said publishing under an alias was a liberating experience because it allowed her to work without expectations and get fresh feedback.

2. Pen name: George Elliot, Real name: Mary Anne Evans

Under her pen name George Elliot, the English novelist, translator, journalist, and poet was one of the best writers of the Victorian era.

3. Pen name: Mrs. Silence Dogood, Real name: Benjamin Franklin.

This is one of the most surprising and unexpected pen names. Benjamin Franklin took on the hilarious name of Mrs. Silence Dogood in 1722 after his brother's newspaper refused to publish his letters. Under the new name, his work was given immediate attention and published.

4. Pen name: Clive Hamilton and N.W. Clerk, Real name: C.S. Lewis 

Renowned Christian writer Clive Staples Lewis published most of his work under his real name but adopted the pen name Clive Hamilton for Spirits in Bondage and Dymer. When he decided to publish A Grief Observed narrating his pain and healing after losing his wife, he did so under yet another pseudonym N.W. Clerk, hoping to maintain some anonymity.

5. Pen name: Mary Westmacott, Real name: Agatha Christie   

Under her real name Agatha Christie, the British writer published over sixty detective novels and many short stories. She, however, adopted the name Mary Westmacott under which she wrote six stories that deeply explored human psychology.

6. Pen name: Jonathan Oldstyle, Diedrich Knickerbocker and Geoffrey Crayon, Real name: Washington Irving.

Washington Irving was an early 19th-century American writer best known for the short stories The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle among his other publications. He, however, adopted some aliases along the way including Jonathan Oldstyle under which he published the famous Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent.

7. Pen name: E.L. James and Snowqueens Icedragon, Real name: Erika Leonard

For her earlier work, Erika Leonard wrote under the pen name Snowqueens Icedragon but later changed to E.L. James under which she published the famous Fifty Shades of Grey series. While Erika Leonard is shy, the E.L. James alias allows her to take on a new persona that has made her one of the most daring authors in the genre.

8. Pen name: Richard Bachman, Real name: Stephen King

Stephen King adopted the pseudonym earlier in his career to beat the limitations of the publishing world at the time that believed that one could only release one book a year.

9. Pen name: J.D. Robb, Real name: Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts adopted the J.D. Robb pen name to allow her cross genres. Her pen name comes from her sons' names Jason and Dan and her name Roberts.

10. Pen name: Mark Twain and Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, Real name: Samuel Clemens

Although Mark Twain was his most famous pseudonym, Samuel Clemens is believed to have written under so many aliases that not all his work has been accounted for.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Faridah Nassozi