The Zany Process of Choosing a Pen Name


Every step in researching, writing, publishing and marketing books has frustrations, some lesser than others. Even choosing a pen name can have its zany frustrations.

When I wrote my first book, the publisher told me I couldn’t use my last name because an Asian last name appearing on an American historical isn’t likely to sell.

Okay, I could understand that. So I chose my Scot-Irish maiden name, McPherren.

Good I thought. I have a pen name.


But no. The the publisher said I really should not use my first name either.


“Well,” they said, “it sounds too . . . modern, too new age.” I argued that my first name is an old Scot-Irish name, but I lost. They compromised by suggesting Charlotte. “It’s very very historical sounding,”,they assured me.” So Charlotte McPherren it was.

The first book signing I attended I was cursing the choice. We’re talking major writer’s cramp after only a few signed books.

Now, years later having my name “sound” historical is not necessary. Still, using my Asian married name might confuse people. So again, I’m not using it.

But I definitely wanted a shorter name.

Hence, Sharla Rae! And best of all it’s my real name, more or less. No problem!

Well, almost no problem. Another romance author whose books I happen love calls herself Sharla. Sharla Lovelace to be exact.

And so I resigned myself to the fact that no matter what I called myself, there would be many people, including authors who shared at least a part of my name. There’s just no getting around it.

The next step of course was setting up a website with my new name. The shorter the web address, the better. A simple .com after my author name would be easier to remember. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

One trip to the Internet and I realized I was destined to make another compromise.

The first Sharla Rae I came upon had dibs on She’s a physic medium. And like me, she’s blond and blue-eyed. Who knew? Wonder if she’s had visions of me. Probably not. I’m not dead yet. But I digress.

The funniest Sharla Rae I came across? Well, actually my author friend Lyn Horner found this one. Um, there’s a racehorse called . . . you guessed it, Sharla Rae. At least she appears a pretty darn good one – came in first at a few races.

And that’s why my website is called

So how about you? Are you using your real name or do you use a pen name and how did you decide?

Be sure to stop by my new author Facebook page and say hi:




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8 Responses to The Zany Process of Choosing a Pen Name

  1. Ella Quinn says:

    I do write under a pen name. Mostly because my real name doesn’t lend itself to a historical writer. So I looked back over my family’s names and picked my great-great-grandmother’s name.

  2. sharla says:

    My last name isn’t very historical either as I mentioned and the name Rae or Ray runs in our family. Thanks for stopping by Ella. 🙂

  3. Well, my pen name is my nickname–Red. The L is taken from my real name, but the Jameson is part of my brother’s first name, James. While he was alive, he was my biggest supporter to write romance. It’s a wink to him for all the encouragement he provided. I just hope I do him proud. 🙂

  4. sharla says:

    LOL, my nick name is Charlie. It’s pretty much all my husband calls me and while I grew up being called Charlie, these days he’s the only one who calls me that. 🙂 Unfortunately I needed a female name for my historical you’re name could both ways.

    And Red, I think that is so sweet of you to use your brother’s name. I’m sure he’s winking back at you. I lost my son two years ago in July and have dedicated my this first e-book to him. Thanks for stopping by today.

  5. You know I can relate. My first book pubbed under my legal name was mixed up with another writer of the same name. No big surprise. My legal name is extremely common. When a numerologist was a guest speaker at our writing meeting (OCCRWA), she said pseudonyms should be the same number as the writer’s birth name. So I used my maiden name on the next 3 books until my career stalled. For personal & professional reasons, I wanted for a new pen name. After choosing a name — again, with the same numerology as my birth name — I researched domain names. Dot-com was taken. Dot-net was available. I also discovered a nonfiction book by someone of the same name. The book was out of print, so I I thought I could use the name without difficulty. Since then, the dot-com domain name became available. (Yay! I now retain ownership of both .com & .net.)

    With the ePub changes in recent years, the other author’s out-of-print book has been reissued as an ebook, and she has collaborated on other nonfiction works while I had also co-authored 2 nonficiton books. I am not sure if readers have been confused. Meanwhile, a young actress of the same name has popped up in films, and is now doing book narrations.

    Funny side-note, my maiden name was so unique that there were only 3 of us in the state of California–my mother, my brother & myself. After joining Facebook, I discovered someone with my first and last name married to a distant relative in the Midwest!! 🙂

  6. sharla says:

    Wow, think our story is even more complicated than mine! 🙂 It sure is fun though to find out how people decided on a pen name. Right now, I’m just glad mine is short.

  7. Hanee says:


    I remember reading your book Song of the willow as Charlotte McPherren and I cannot find an electronic version of it. Do you know where I can buy the Electronic version?


    • sharla says:

      I have not yet updated Song of the Willow for electronic sales but when it comes out I will announce it at my Facebook site. Thanks for asking.

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