Leading a Double Life (by Lisa Graff)

Next year I will have not one but two new novels coming out, and I am very excited about both of them! One is a middle-grade novel, very much in line with the sorts of books I've written up until now...

...and the other is very different--my first YA novel, and a science-fiction novel to boot (funny sci-fi, but sci-fi all the same). It's called MOTHERSHIP, and I co-wrote it with fellow writer Martin Leicht, and it's the first in a trilogy.

Writing the YA novel was a new experience for me in many ways, including the fact that I chose to write it under a pen name: Isla Neal. There were several factors that went into this decision, but the main one was that, because all of my books to date have been for kids in the 6-12-year-old range, I worried quite a bit about "branding." I'd be horrified if, say, an eight-year-old saw my name on the cover of MOTHERSHIP and pulled it off the shelf assuming it would be appropriate for her to read. It would not be--it's for teenagers, not young children. MOTHERSHIP is a very, very different book than the ones I've written in the past, and while I think it is completely infused with my personality (as well as my co-author's), and I am extremely proud of having written it, I took on a pseudonym to reflect that difference.

But being an already-established author who suddenly takes up a pen name has its own set of quirks, and I am slowly beginning to discover them. Should I, for instance, be secretive about my "real" identity, and perhaps even use a different author photo and create a false second persona for myself, ala Richard Bauchman (aka Stephen King)? Or perhaps I could go the goofy route, ala Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler)?

In the end, I decided to take inspiration from E. Lockhart (aka Emily Jenkins), who writes books for young children under one name, and books for teens under another, but is open about the connection.

Still, even after jumping this big hurdle, it turns out there are lots of tricks to being a pseudonymous author (the first of which, of course, is actually choosing the name in the first place. I had to pick mine in about 20 minutes--it's kind of a long story--and I really love it, but I kind of wish I'd read this first). The book doesn't even come out until next year, and already I'm feeling a bit like a double agent, setting up two email addresses, two Facebook profiles, two Twitter accounts. I'll log out of one account and into another, only to forget who I am twenty seconds later. And how do I decide who would post a certain funny thought that pops into my head--Lisa or Isla? Just wait until I get two websites! And what the heck do I do at conferences, or book signings? Should I sign copies of MOTHERSHIP as Isla Neal? That would only make sense, given as that's the name that's on the book, but . . . well, that's not my real name. Do I need a whole new signature now?

See what I mean? Crazy sauce. It's a whole new world for me. I guess what it really goes to show is that, no matter how "established" you are as an author, there is always a whole lot to learn about the industry, and lots of ways to feel like a duck out of water!

Anyone out there have any advice for me on how to handle my new crazy double-life (whether you have experience as a pseudonymous author or not!)? Clearly both Lisa and Isla could use it...


  1. Isla--I mean, Lisa--I can't WAIT to read your sci-fi! And I totally agree about how much there is to learn about the industry...

  2. The obvious solution, Lislislia, is to have one persona that is good and one that is evil. You can be a nice MG author, and a horrible (I mean, equally talented, but horrible) YA author... and then one of you, or possibly both, can write a novel about how it turned out that Isla was really Lisa's evil twin sister. Or merely pretending to be... (But should THAT be a MG or YA novel? Oh dear...) Best of luck to both of you! BTW I am distantly related to Sophie Kinsella / Madelaine Wickham: she picked your solution but I don't know how she signs books.


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