How I chose my pen name

It was tough to decide whether to use a pen name or not, but choosing the name came pretty easily to me.

I had a couple of key criteria I knew it had to meet:

  • Easy to remember and spell—for ease of search
  • Gender neutral—to avoid bias
  • Look good on a crime novel cover—to fit with genre publishing tropes
  • Not the name of a well-known author or identity—to stand out in the market.

As a child, I had various alter-egos, all with gender neutral names. The top two were Samantha-Sam-for-short and Charlie. Charlie’s Angels was probably the inspiration for Charlie, I wanted to be Jaclyn Smith/Kelly Garrett around that time, and I’m pretty sure the “Sam” was inspired by the song Substitute, which I LOVED (despite the very dodgy lyrics).

For surnames, I looked at the family tree. My mother’s maiden name didn’t fit the criteria, plus sharing that with the world might have made my data even less secure than it already is. My paternal grandmother’s surname was very culturally specific, and I thought it was inappropriate to pretend a cultural background I don’t have. Eventually I settled on Brown, since that was my first surname.

Sam Brown Stop
Gratuitous Sam Brown Stop image

Now, obviously Charlie Brown was out of the question. But Sam Brown appealed straight away: it had a nice flow, and fit the criteria of looking good on a cover, being not dissimilar to the bestselling author Dan Brown. The fact the initials SB are a nice link to this blog, and the associated Twitter account also counted in the name’s favour.

As an added bonus the song Stop by Sam Brown is one of my favourite housework singalong songs.

When I did my due diligence to check there were no other writers with that name (there weren’t!), I also used the spelling Browne, just in case, and discovered that a Sam Browne is a type of gun belt that has been used for centuries. That’s just too cute for an aspiring crime writer. The deal was sealed.

Sam Browne gun belt
I may need to get myself a Sam Browne. And a whip!

So: there you have it.

Call me Sam.

Sam Brown, crime writer and adventurer!

If you’re considering a pen name, Kristen Kieffer has a great post on the topic. Her blog, Well Storied, is a great resource for writers.


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