As a writer, I’ve gone by three different names, Harry Heckel (my real name), Lee Lightner (when I collaborate with Jeff Smith) and most recently, Jack Heckel (when collaborating with John Peck). I’ve also considered writing in other genres and I have a few novels that if I ever sell, I may publish under yet more names. At the Baltimore Book Festival, I was asked how I keep track of my different selves, and I gave a short answer about being organized and branding, but I’m going to elaborate more here.
Today, writers have to do a lot of marketing. From writing blog posts like this one to keeping Twitter feeds going, to doing appearances and writing articles, it’s a lot of work. I keep recalling that fellow Harper Voyager author Bishop O’Connell told me (and I’m paraphrasing), “You’ve been published. Now the real work begins.”
With social media, the author’s brand is important. If I started writing romance novels as Lee Lightner, and someone bought my short story, Engage the Enemy, about Space Wolves in the grim darkness of the far future, they’d be confused and disappointed. Similarly, if a fan of Lee Lightner’s sci-fi grabbed a period romance novel looking for boltgun fire and chainswords and instead found the daughter and son of feuding clan lords in Scotland facing down their fathers for their love, there would be some shock. So, it’s important to have a consistent brand.
On the other hand, I don’t want to go around deceiving my fans. Not everyone knows that Jack Heckel is a nom de plume used for the collaborative effort of two authors, but if you go to www.jackheckel.com and click on the About section, after we list Jack’s fictional biography, we explain that Jack is actually two people, John Peck and myself. That way if someone wants to delve deeply enough, they can find the connection. And of course, I’m very forthcoming here on this site.
John and I plan to continue to use Jack Heckel as we publish more books. We are both hopeful that Once Upon a Rhyme and Happily Never After are just the start and we are already working on book three. Additionally, we have another series in the works, set in a similar vein, so hopefully that will get a chance to see the light of publication in the future.
However, if we decide to write something set in the real world, perhaps a murder mystery, or maybe even a scholarly non-fiction piece that doesn’t have to do with fairy tales or fantasy, we might decide that it would be better to change the name we use, again to avoid confusion and to cause people to wonder about our qualifications for writing in one genre or the other. If we one day enjoy the success of a Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, this will be less of an issue.
So, since I have multiple identities, and I want to support all of them (and I really need to help Lee Lightner who doesn’t have a website), I find myself tweeting sometimes as Jack Heckel, sometimes as Harry, checking multiple websites and working on multiple blogs. It’s also a little confusing when I’m making appearances. For example, I’m going to be at the New York Comic Con on October 11th. I’m listed as Harry Heckel for my panel “Not Your Mother’s Fairy Tales”, but I’m there because I’m half of Jack Heckel of Once Upon a Rhyme. So do I say, “Hi, I’m Jack Heckel” or “Hi, I’m Harry Heckel, half of Jack Heckel”? I’m going to go for the latter, but it sounds weird.
Furthermore, I feel like I’m cheating when I retweet something one of the other “me”s wrote or posted, even though I did it and I try to let the world know when I can that it’s me. A friend of mine helped me learn this when I posted on Facebook as Harry some stuff about Jack and he asked me who Jack Heckel was.
So, for now, I’m letting Harry Heckel post about everything, but I’m going to shift the focus here a little more back to the Crimson Hawks, Krueger, unpublished solo stuff and any roleplaying, while letting Jack Heckel do the heavy lifting on Charming. If you are looking for my Nanowrimo efforts, check here, and for updates on Happily Never After (or Book 3 of Charming), check on Jack Heckel’s site. I’ll do my best to keep juggling.
And for the record, I have thought about expanding my different names. I always did like (not-so) secret identities.
All the best,
Posted on October 4, 2014, in Writing and tagged Baltimore Book Festival, Charming Tales, Confustion, Harry Heckel, Jack Heckel, Lee Lightner, Multiple Identities, Multiple Pennames, New York Comic Con, Nom de plume, NYCC, Pseudonyms, SFWA. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.