If you use a pen name, make sure you have a personality behind it.
Otherwise, you’re missing the point of nom de plumes.
I am the ghostwriter for a parrot.
Felix R. LaFollett. He’s got a personality. A big, loud, opinionated personality. He came with it when we brought him home thinking he needed rescuing. In reality, we were the ones needing rescuing. From our ourselves.
With Felix’s name and personality, I’ve self-published four successful books, two of which were number one in their category. Through Felix, I can say anything. That’s the trick of a successful pen name. They need to be a fully formed personality to work as intended. A pen name with no actual personality is a pen with no ink.
Hunter Thompson knew. Raoul Duke was all personality. So much, many couldn’t take him. But that was the point of Raoul Duke. He said what Hunter didn’t want to say to the readers who were expecting Hunter. Or for the editors who wanted to keep their jobs.
Felix’s personality is real because parrots have fully formed personalities. Obviously, I take a few artistic license for a walk around the block. Obviously he wouldn’t really run for President, twice. But he did. Full-blown presidential campaigns with buttons, shirts, bumper stickers, political propaganda, swag, speeches, fundraising, and debates. Why? Because I had things to say about politics that I couldn’t say as Kathy. But I could say it all as Felix. He’s got on average 50,000 readers waiting to see what he does next. They expect a smarmy opinionated Felix. I give it to them in high doses. Visit his Facebook page, scroll through his photo albums and posts. Read the comments.
When his followers started growing, I wrote the Ten Commandments for Felix. These are my editorial rules about writing as Felix. The third rails I never cross when wearing Le Chapeau au Nom de Plume Félix. I started a dictionary for Felixisms. Because he makes up extra words. Word salads that scorn and shame the confused. There’s 1073 words now. I’ll publish his dictionary one day.
He’s got a Friday Newscast now on Facebook. Every Friday it’s the Channel FelixTV WTFee!? News! With NewsCaster Felix! Which is the other great thing about having a personality filled pen name. You can capitalize words any way you damn well please. And when you get their syntax down, you can invent extra words, alsotoo. For example; Dick Tater Pudding currently blowing up You Crane.
His books are written as lessons for humans to be better humans. One title, Directions for the Confused. (In case you didn’t know you were.) His memoir Dear Felix Diary Thingy - Felix in the Time of Confused, is one parrot’s lament of the terminal confused in the humans around him. He’s written two Cozy Detective Novels. The Pistachio Alley Puzzle and The Exploding Phonebook Factory Caper They’ve done well, and garnered fan mail. More fan mail than my books. The mailman and UPS guy think we have a kid named Felix in here.
It’s hard to get up in the morning and write, knowing this 29-year-old parrot gets more laughs than me. More followers and way more packages in the mail. Pistachios from Texas. Toys from Australia. Phonebooks from Arizona. Fan art from Japan. I get mailers from AARP. This is bullshit.
This is such bullshit.
He signs his own books. People ask for our mailing address to mail a copy of a book they own for him to sign and beak-o-graph. At an event I was keynote speaking, his books out sold my books 8–1. This is bullshit. He laughs while he beak-o-graphs all his books at home, before I ship them to Location. He laughs because his plan has come to fruition.
I suppose at one point when he was still stuck in a cage in the wrong place; he doubted his ability to become a number one writer. What with no fingers and only eight talons of fury. Six of which can’t be used to type because they are the ones keeping him from falling over. The day he suckered us up to his cage at that pet store. That day all his ideas fell into place. As plain as the confused look on my face. He leaned in, closer, looked me right in eye and said, “I’ve a use for you.”
This. Is bullshit.