Monday, February 3, 2014

The Plusses, Perils, and Pitfalls of Pseudonyms

By Sue Swift/Suz DeMello (Guest Blogger)

A lot of writers use pseudonyms. But everyone knows that—everyone is pretty sure that Rhiannon St. Cyril is not someone’s birth name.

When I started publishing books, I didn’t use a pseudonym. My first book, Hopelessly Compromised, bore “Susan Swift” on the cover. Why? Well, that’s my name, and as one of my writer compadres put it, “I don’t see the point of writing a book if people don’t know I did!” (Sweetie, the point is the royalties. And the joy of creation.)

I got that—we want folks to know that WE DID IT. We climbed the mountaintop—i.e. wrote the book, which was pretty dang hard.Then we had the onerous work of finding an agent or a publisher. Also difficult. Damn straight we want people to know!

However, my first book-signing prompted a change in my pen name. “Susan Swift” is really long to write out a hundred times. At least it seemed like a hundred. Okay, maybe twenty. Okay, a couple members of my family and some friends showed up. Whatever.

In any event, my next books were published as “Sue Swift,” which was fine. They were light, sweet Silhouette Romances, and though “Sue Swift” is not a really romancey name—certainly not like, say, Adriana Featherington—it worked fine. Sue Swift fits nicely on book covers. It’s easy to remember and fast to write at a signing.

Then I started to write erotic romance. And not just any kind of erotic romance. My erotica tends to be dark, the heroines explorative and the heroes more than a bit wicked—but in a very hot way.

My sweet romance readers needed a pseudonym. Or so I was told by my writer buddies. That way fans can tell which books are gentle romance and which are over the top, and make their purchasing choices accordingly.

But what did I want to be called?

I’ve always been a busy, energetic, somewhat anxious person, and my name, Swift, reflects that. But it’s healthier to be relaxed.

So Suz deMello was born. Sue the mellow—just the person I wanted to become.

But a pen name is not all sweetness and light. Sure, it’s good for the reader, but what about me? I have to have two sites, which are linked by a common portal page to allow cross-pollination—you know, so readers who might want to read both styles can find all my books. But when it comes to promotional efforts like, say, a Goodreads presence or a Twitter feed—what do I do? Have TWO Twitter feeds? I can hardly keep up with one! Two blogs? No thanks, one’s enough.

So with every promo effort, I have to decide who I want to be: Sue or Suz. That’s hard since I am Sue and Suz, and I don’t like living with a divided self.

Suz has been very successful. Her most recent book is Queen’s Quest, which is now in its third printing—fifth if you count the number of times it’s been released in both e- and print formats. If you like futuristic erotica, this is the book for you. But be warned! This novel is not for the fainthearted. If your fantasies are a little rough-and-tumble and your fantasy lovers are true men, then maybe, just maybe, you can handle Queen’s Quest.

What’s it about, you ask?

Janus is a planet which lacks both tilt and spin, and its Shadowlands are the pewter band of dusk dividing the violently hot Lightside of the planet from its Darkside, imprisoned by eternal night. Because of the peculiar conformation of the planet, birthrates are low and indiscriminate mating encouraged.

Audryn, Queen of Shadow has reached that time in her life when she must choose a King to rule with her or fail to bear an heir, casting not only her realm but all of Janus into chaos.
Despite her duty, she is reluctant to share power, even a bit distrustful. Janus’ nobles vie for Audryn’s hand. Although she enjoys trysting with all her suitors, none seize her heart.

Then Storne, the warrior Prince of Darkness, arrives to claim her as his bride.

Will his masterful ways allure or repel the willful Queen?

And here’s a little bit about me.

Best-selling, award-winning author Sue Swift, a.k.a Suz deMello, has written seventeen novels, plus several short stories and non-fiction articles. She writes in numerous genres including romance, mystery, paranormal, historical, contemporary comedy and erotica. She’s a freelance editor who’s worked for Total-E-Bound, Liquid Silver Books and Ai Press, where she is currently Managing Editor. She also takes on private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in PW, Kirkus and Booklist, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, she resides in northern California. Her passion is world travel, and she’s left the US over a dozen times, including stints working overseas for many months. Right now, she's working on her next manuscript and planning her next trip.

Her blog is at Find her reading picks @ReadThis4fun on Twitter, and befriend her on Facebook ( ). Her sites are at and


Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Sue,

Glad to have you back at Beyond Romance. I do like "Suz DeMello". It's extremely distinctive while still being pronounceable. (I've had people email me asking how to pronounce "Sarai". Rhymes with "apply".)

Jan Irving said...

It's nice hearing your history as a writer and why you chose two identities. I'm almost finished a YA novel so I've been contemplating this too. If I'd thought about it, I probably would have used something a little more different from my own name for what I'm doing now. I am not sure I'd like to maintain two sites. The linking between two sounds good.

And trust you for writing such a different romance. Sounds really good. xx

Ashe Barker said...

I write under a psuedonym, but mainly because I have a separate job as well and want to keep the two separate.It doesn't always work. I only have one google account, one Wordpress account. I often find myself commenting under my real name (as I am here) when it's Ashe Barker talking. I suppose I'd be more diligent if I absolutely had to separate the two, but like you, I find it all a lot of trouble so I'm pretty casual about it. The branding consideration seems to me to make sense. If I decided to write in a totally different genre I might do it under a different name.

Love the sound of your book - really different and fresh.

Suz de said...

Thanks, Lisabet, for hosting me and thanks for the kind comments, everyone :)

Unknown said...

Hi Sue/Suz,
I love the sound of Queen's Quest.

I write under my 'real' name. The first book signing event I attended husband pointed out that I probably shouldn't sign my books exactly the same way I sign my credit card, cheques etc. It was the only signature I have and is it's hard to break a habit. :)
I've also just figured out Ashe is also Anne!

Post a Comment

Let me know your thoughts! (And if you're having trouble commenting, try enabling third-party cookies in your browser...)