Using a fictitious name to conceal one’s identity as a writer is a time-honored tradition. I don’t know that there are actual rules for doing this, but one needs to think long and hard before anything that you write is published or distributed to others without being attributed to you. Personally, I feel that using a pen name has its purposes. Agatha Christie used the pen name Mary Westmacott when she wrote outside her murder mystery genre because she felt that writing intuitive romances might negatively impact the sales of her mystery books. She was correct. She wrote them anyway, and published them, because she had something important to say that she wanted to share. Her publishers convinced her that sales would go down, but since she didn’t write them for economic reasons, she used a pen name, Mary Westmacott. By the time her cover was blown, so to speak, she could have sold paper napkins as long as her name was written on them.
I have all of Agatha Christie’s published works and I read and re-read them many times each year. I like that her murders have just enough violence, blood and gore to establish that a real murder has occurred. Figuring out “who done it” is interesting because I couldn’t have figured out her twisting and turning plots by myself. And Justice is always served. But it is her ability to create meaningful characters with a few well-chosen words that intrigues me the most. Christie leaves no loose ends. That is why I frequently use her murder mysteries to put me to sleep. It is the satisfaction of a job well done and I can breathe a sigh of relief as I turn out the light and turn off the worries of my day. On the other hand, her romance novels, which are filled with suppressed emotion and the irrevocable results of bad choices, do not interest me other than as being other books written by Agatha Christie, using a pen name.
I wrote a book titled Touchpoints and published it in 2011 under the pen name Sally Shirley. I chose the title because certain events occurred to me and several women I knew many years ago which affected us all – they were in fact points in time that touched us all. I wrote them down on those bits of paper and saved them, packrat that I am. Early in 2011, I found enough of these disparate pages to realize that I had a book about women of a certain age and time of life going through rough times – and good times. I chose the pen name Sally Shirley because my aunt called me “Sally” when I was a little girl. “Shirley” is my mother’s maiden name and my middle name.
I chiefly write about relationships in a diary style, as if I am chronicling my own life, which is unnerving to some of my readers because it is so intensely personal. For example, this poem struck a nerve with several of my readers:
I need a hug, I said.
I’m always available for a hug, you said.
And then you went to sleep,
Your hand on my shoulder.
You could go down to the funeral home
and lie down beside the corpses there
And be ‘available’…
The computer expert,
Should know the meaning
of the word
The computer user,
Whether to hit the “esc” key
Just “delete” you.