Hello. I’m Clarissa Southwick.
No, not really.
Clarissa is my pen name. My real last name inspires drunks to make crank calls in the middle of the night. So the decision to go with a nom de plume was easy for me.
Choosing a pen name was hard.
I started by gathering advice from fellow writers.
Here’s the list they gave me:
- Keep it short
- Aim for the front of the alphabet.
- Make it easy to spell and pronounce.
- Make it appropriate to your genre.
- Choose something which has personal meaning to you.
When I got stuck, some of my writer friends suggested combining loved ones’ first names. Sabrina Adams, Marie Williams, etc. This works very well if you’re working with uncommon names. But when I googled my family names, I got lost in millions of entries from authors, porn stars and politicians. I might as well be invisible.Zeraglaider still sounded like evil villains from a manga comic book.
I needed a name for a historical romance writer.
In spite of having a last name which gets me ‘randomly selected’ at the airport 100% of the time, my father’s family has been in the United States since the 1620’s. So I dusted off those old genealogy records and looked for ancestors who would have been born at the same time as my heroines.
And there she was, Clarissa Southwick, granddaughter of George Southwick, who died in 1775 at the Battle of Lexington during the American Revolutionary War. I remember being fascinated by his monument in Peabody Square as a child. I googled Clarissa, and found nothing objectionable. Somehow the name just felt right.
Is it the perfect pen name? Well, it breaks at least two of the rules on my list. It’s far from the start of the alphabet, and it is incredibly long. It doesn’t work on twitter and my hand will break if I ever have a book signing. But it has meaning to me, and that may just be the most important rule of all.
I would love to hear your stories Tell me, why did you decide to use a pen name and how did you choose it?