We’ve come a long way, baby, and life hasn’t always been as great for women as it is now.
Though there’s still a long way to go when it comes to gender equality, the path has been longer and arguably more arduous. The pool of talented women authors, however, has always been brimming. So what was a woman with literary vision to do in the days when it wasn’t socially acceptable for females to be published? She would write under a male pseudonym.
Louisa May Alcott published as A.M. Barnard, Mary Ann Evans under the name of George Eliot, and the Bronte sisters (Ann, Charlotte and Emily) under the names Acton, Currer and Ellis Bell.
What’s lesser known is a spate of current female authors are publishing under male pseudonyms. Here’s a look at female authors alive today who have published or are publishing under a male name, for a variety of reasons.
2013, 1997: Joanne Rowling (J.K. Rowling, Robert Galbraith)
As author of the explosively popular “Harry Potter” series, J. K. Rowling gained widespread fame in only a few years. Known as J. K. Rowling, Rowling’s full name is Joanne Rowling. It’s been reported that her publishers urged her to use initials for the first installment of “Harry Potter,” afraid that young boys would not read something written by a woman. And thus, the fabricated “K” came to be (Rowling has no middle name).
More recently, Rowling published “The Cuckoo’s Calling” in 2013 under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Galbraith’s (or rather, Rowling’s) next book, “The Silkworm,” is due to be published in June.
In response to inquiries as to why she chose to write under a pseudonym, Rowling has said she was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in a new genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback. Unfortunately, that unvarnished feedback didn’t last long as she was ultimately outed as Galbraith.
2012: Christina Lynch and Meg Howrey (Magnus Flyte)
When “City of Dark Magic" was released in 2012 by newcomer author Magnus Flyte, it was received with acclaim. The sinister, dreamy intrigue of the novel increased when Flyte’s identity was revealed: In addition to being an author, flaneur, satirist, adventurer and pisco sour connoisseur (per his website), he is the pseudonym of author Meg Howrey and TV writer Christina Lynch.
A second novel under the same pseudonym, “City of Lost Dreams,” was published in November 2013.
1995: Nora Roberts (J.D. Robb)
Though Nora Roberts has a successful career as a novelist using her own name, Roberts was ready to embrace a new challenge and decided to adopt the moniker J.D. Robb for her “in Death” series, which began in 1995 with “Naked in Death.” Her pen name remained a secret until the 12th book in the series, “Betrayal in Death,” was released. Since the 9th book, “Loyalty in Death,” each title in the series has been on the New York Times bestseller list. The most recent title, “Concealed in Death,” was released in February 2014.
1983: Ann Rule (Andy Stack)
American true crime writer Ann Rule published her first book, “The Stranger Beside Me,” under her own name. The book is about her former co-worker, friend and serial killer, Ted Bundy. She wrote her next three books, “The Lust Killer,” “The Want-Ad Killer” and “The I-5 Killer,” originally under the pseudonym Andy Stack. She has since published under her own name, the most recent title being “Practice to Deceive,” released in October 2013. Several of her books have been made into TV movies.
1960: Nelle Harper Lee (Harper Lee)
On every high school reading list and a classic of American literature, “To Kill a Mockingbird” became popular right after its publication in 1960. It won a Pulitzer Prize and later was made into a movie starring Gregory Peck. Written under the pen name Harper Lee, Nelle’s identity isn’t disguised entirely, but is made somewhat androgynous.