Isn’t a pen name just a mask?

Isn’t a pen name just a mask?


Today I’m taking a break from my epic series on fantasy worldbuilding to answer a reoccurring question that’s been hitting my inbox and Facebook feeds: “Who on earth is Kimberly McNeil?”

coverIf you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me give you a bit of background. This is the front cover for my new novel that just released yesterday, Meg Mitchell & The Secret of the Journal. This is my first stab at a young adult novel. It’s epic urban fantasy. It’s a series that I’ve been writing for more than two-thirds of my life.

And, yes, I wrote it.

So why does it say the author is Kimberly McNeil?

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, I am Kimberly McNeil. This is a pen name that I’ve chosen to use.

Pen names are fairly common within the writing industry. Some famous author names that you might know aren’t actually the author’s real name.


  • Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)
  • Cassandra Clare (Judith Rumelt)
  • J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts)
  • Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
  • O. Henry (William Sydney Porter)
  • Richard Bachman (Stephen King)

Maybe you aren’t familiar with all (or any) of those, but that’s just a small sampling of authors who used pen names.

Pen names can be useful for many different reasons. In some cases, pen names are needed because the topic of a book is particularly sensitive and should be separated from the author’s name. In some cases, such as George Eliot’s (aka Mary Ann Evans), it was a gender issue at an earlier period of history. Women weren’t respected as writers, so Mary Ann Evans took the pen name George Eliot to write her masterpiece Silas Marner.

Some writers may choose to use a pen name because they feel the need to wear a mask, but that’s not why I did it. I chose to use a pen name for two very specific reasons.

Lightkeepers is a young adult series

The other name I write under is A.C. Williams, and that name has now become associated with my novels for grownups. In some cases, those novels are extremely grown up, such as Nameless and Namesake and my upcoming winter release New Name.

I wanted to use another name so that the mature, gritty content of those grown-up novels remained separate from my work in the young adult genre.

Kimberly McNeil is more than just a pen name

Without giving away too much, Kimberly McNeil isn’t just a name. She’s an actual character within Meg Mitchell & The Secret of the Journal. I’m not going to tell you who she is or where she is or why she exists. You’ll have to read the book to figure that out.

Many authors choose to use pen names for many different reasons. There’s always the chance it may confuse your readers more than it clarifies, but then that gives you the option to write a blog post clearing things up. 😉

A.C. Williams

Amy Williams left a lucrative career in marketing to write novels about space cowboys, clumsy church secretaries, American samurai, and alternate dimensions. Along the way, she also discovered a passion for teaching other creative professionals how to use technology to make life easier. Through video instruction or one-on-one coaching, she teaches software, blogging, basic graphic design, and many other useful skills that help creative entrepreneurs get stuff done minus the frustration.

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