“Stella needs our help!” Sounds like a line from a Hardy Boys book. And just about as real. Stella need help? Our Stella, founding genius behind AllThingsWords and EatReadRate? Not very liikely.
Except in this case, it’s true. Normally steely and decisive, Stella’s dithering.
Of course, I’ll help, you exclaim! But what could possibly be the problem?
Stella is about to get a book published, and she needs . . . a pen name.
And of course, she’d never go with the simple expedient of using her own name. Just the very idea of sitting in a quiet restaurant having tapas and a glass of wine except when the waiter sees the name on her MasterCard he hauls out his tattered manuscript and asks her if she’ll read it, and it’s so bad but she, kind spirit that she is, would never offend him by telling him that he’s wasted his time writing crap — that very idea gives her the heebie-jeebies. So instead, she’s going with a pen name.
“What’s in a name?” Stella asked me as if she were interviewing me instead of the other way around. “Would a rose by any other name smell like a piece of pecan pie?” Stella’s got a way with metaphors. “As life reveals at times, a surname for a woman can be temporary. Maiden name until she’s married. Married name until she’s not. Then what? Does it really matter? Do you revert to the name you had growing up?”
So she decided to use Stella Sinclair. I asked how come and she gave me this diffident story about brainstorming with her daughter and hitting on the name Sinclair. But I’m not buying that. Has to be a deeper, darker reason. Hmm. Forced to read Upton Sinclair at the impressionable age of 13, she harbors secret fantasies about muckrakers? Doesn’t sound like the Stella I know (which may not be the Stella that you know). Loved that little dinosaur on the Sinclair Oil logo when she was even younger. Or maybe Sinclair was a character in a thriller-action-romance series she read in high school and modeled herself after. We’ll just have to speculate, because she stubbornly stuck with that “brainstorming with my daughter” story.
But . . . and he’s where our story turns tragic . . . Stella Sinclair was already taken. By a writer of steamy erotic romance, emphasis on the word “erotic.” “To hell with that. I’m using the name anyway!” Except that our wise editor Debby advised against it. Did you know that an established writer could go to court and force you to change your pen name, even if it’s your real name?
My advice (I’m obviously not as wise as Debbie) was for Stella to send her badass assassin character after the writer who had the temerity to steal her pen name of choice. Wouldn’t that make a great novel? A character trying to assassinate a real person, except that she runs into the trashy muse in a cheap dive in Houston and . . . But Stella said no, that wasn’t ethical. And besides, her assassin was busy right now.
So I’m asking you to all write your congressperson and demand that the law be changed.
Actually, I’m not. We’re gathered here to help Stella choose a different name.
“I’ve pretty much got it down to Stella Wilder, Stella Walker, or Stella di Grecia,” she told me. “What do you think?”
“Not Walker. Sounds like a cross between a Texas Ranger and something you’ll be using in a decade or two because of arthritis in your hip.” That was my second bit of advice, markedly better than the first.
So, readers, writers, and everyone in between. Help Stella out by offering your best suggestions. Which she won’t use because she really didn’t need the help. But maybe.