What’s in a Name? Part 1: Pen Names

Many friends have asked me why I chose to use a pen name.

Well, to be honest, I was worried that people would think differently of the person they knew after reading Passion Fish, which has a decent amount of steam (the movie version would — WILL someday? — be rated R). “What?! I go to church with her!” I also have two teenage sons who are, as would be expected, a good bit mortified that their mother writes romance novels. I wanted to spare them embarrassment at school by creating a separate entity that, for the most part, isn’t easily traced to my real identity. The choice to use a pen name has its drawbacks, especially when I’m trying to get my books “out there” without necessarily revealing the reason I’m pushing them so hard. It becomes moot when people look inside the back cover and, ta-da!, there’s my mug for all to see!

Once that first question is answered, the second — how I chose my pen name — is almost immediate. More (and maybe too much) honesty for you: I started writing fanfiction and had a pen name that was long enough that it was abbreviated “AO.” When I wanted to create a pen name for publishing my first book (sorry, Mom, but I’ve never liked my given name), I knew I wanted to still be AO. I have always loved the name Alison — spelled this way — ever since meeting my first best friend, Paige, whose middle name was spelled this way. That took care of the first half of my new name. Oburia came from my great-great-grandmother: Caroline Oburia Bonzey.

Thus, Alison Oburia — AO — became my alter ego. Once in a while someone will mispronounce my last name; it’s oh-BYUR-ee-ah (the BYUR pronounced as in bureau) but I gently correct and move on. Oburia doesn’t seem to exist as a surname, not even in my own family history, but when I Googled it, I found out if one adds a question mark after it, it means “Is it not so?” in Igbo, a language spoken by a particular ethnic group in southern Nigeria. Who knew!

Next blog: What’s in a Name? Part 2: Character Names


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