A Rose is a Rose…or Maybe Not

Red rose (image via http://www.freestockphotos.biz)

I’ve got a question — Does it matter to you what an author’s name is?

I mean, does Mary carry more clout than Ashley? Does Cheyenne sound younger than Dianne? And does it matter?

The reason I ask is that my first name appears on the nation’s Top 100 Baby Name Lists from the 1940s through the 1970s.

That’s a l-o-n-g time for a name to be popular.

And while I’ve written countless news stories under my name, I sometimes wonder if “Debbie” sounds writerly enough.

Perhaps because there were so many of us Debbies in my high school class, I’ve come to think of my name as a montage of the girls I once knew. Some were cheerleaders; some were “popular”; some were musicians; some were funny.

None were writers — except me, of course. And I was more of a closet writer, insecure about my talent and afraid to be considered “weird.”

High school is like that. We try so hard to fit in, yet when the annual yearbook-signing ritual arrived, we Debbies donned new personas in an attempt to stand out. We became Debby, or Debi, or Debee, or Debra.

Some even used their middle names, though Ann in one form or another is just about as popular as Debbie is.

Maybe it’s just a regional thing. After all, I hardly knew any Debbies in college, and I haven’t come across a new Debbie in ages.

We all know baby names are cyclical. Old-time names like Ava and Ella and Abigail are once again popular with new parents, while names like Lisa and Wendy and Laurie can’t be found anywhere.

Does a name date an author in an agent’s mind? Should it?

All the writing books and magazines I’ve read stress the importance of getting characters’ names right. You don’t want to put an Ariel, for instance, in the 1950s, or a Chrystal in the 1880s. It might have happened, but if so, it was a rarity, and you don’t want to flag your ignorance in front of agents.

But what about the author’s name? Does a Chloe sound too young to pen a serious novel? Does Jane sound too old to be alive for the long haul?

Maybe I’m stressing for nothing. Maybe nobody cares but me.

And maybe I could end the whole shebang by choosing a pen-name for myself, much the way I’d do for my characters.

What do you think? Do you judge a writer by his name? Do you even care?

21 thoughts on “A Rose is a Rose…or Maybe Not

  1. Hey, Debbie, My vote is to go with your own name vs a pen name. Go with who you are. Kathleen is a pretty common name too. Good point though about matching character names with the times. Interesting thoughts!

    • Thanks for your vote, Kathy! I suppose you’re right about sticking with who I am (it’s probably easier for the IRS and other such outfits to keep track of one person rather than several, ha!)

  2. Funny….my name has never been on the top 100 list (to my knowledge). During school, I’d have given anything to have one of those blend-into-the-crowd names, like Jessica or Jennifer – or Debbie (I knew several, too). My introductions to people usually involve me spelling my name, or else I will be known as Janet or Joanna.

    I also vote for going with your own name – it’s you. I have never (I repeat, NEVER) decided not to read a book because of an author’s name. I prefer names that I can pronounce, just so I don’t sound like an idiot when recommending (or not recommending) the book to others.

    I don’t care if the author is sixteen or ninety-seven – if they write an engaging story, I’m there. (I have to admit that I’d be a teeney-bit envious of the sixteen-year-old, though :))

    • What a strong voice of reason you have, Janna! And yes, I love your name — it’s unique and makes you memorable. I’m glad to know at least somebody doesn’t stress over author’s names — I don’t over other authors’ names, but mine tends to worry me. Probably it’s just procrastination, haha!

  3. I think it’s part of our wiring to connect new information to past experiences and while it’s something I try to avoid, I do make connections for certain names.

    I once taught a ninth grader named Esther and I knew a woman my age named Ethel, both names I associate with elderly women.

    Based on my experiences, Debbie conjures images of a smart, funny, kind, easygoing, and sometimes athletic person.

    • Your Debbies are right up there with the ones I grew up with — smart, funny, athletic. I don’t know if I totally fit that image, but I wouldn’t be opposed to it! When my parents brought me as a baby to be baptized and told the priest my name, he asked them, “What, another Debbie?” Seems we have a rash of uninspired parents naming kids in my home town!

  4. A rose is a rose is a rose. Have you considered using Deborah? I think we’re of similar generation and I hated the fact that I was always the only Monica in all of my classes. Seemed to me that my parents had made the name up. Back then, I wanted to be called Alice, which I thought was a beautiful, more popular name. Now, I’m grateful they gave me a made up name, though now its caught on and I’ve come across quite a few. Probably made popular because of the TV show, Friends, and the character, Monica.

    • I happen to like Monica! I’ve known several Monicas, and they seem like smart, interesting people. I always wanted a “beautiful” name, like Michelle or Ashley — anything to where I didn’t have to be known by my last name because everybody was a Debbie!

  5. Debbie is a very pretty name…but only knowing you only through your writing it seems a little informal…I would see you more as a Deborah.
    I have two friends who I have always known as Deborah and Cynthia. However their mom’s call them Debbie and Cindy (actually Cindy Lou). It so does not fit it is almost comical. I have another friend that was named Carol and she hated it from the cradle. Great childhood, lovely parents they just did a lousy job naming her…so she changed it with their blessing to Rachel. Which fits her to a tee. My mother changed her name from Marsha to Marcie when she went to New York as a dancer…Marcie is much more sophisticated….and I was dubbed Carol Elizabeth but always called Katybeth so I changed it legally with my parents blessing…My family has a long history of being Odd with names…Cole’s name was changed around at least 4 time before we had it just right.
    I guess what I am trying to say is you have to feel like your name fits–I think Debbie is a fine name for an author–if you do. Would I buy Debbie’s books…sure if the book was something I wanted to read.

    • Your “Odd” family is so interesting — here, I thought your name was probably Katherine Elizabeth! The only people who call me Deborah were the nuns in grade school and doctors; it evokes that “I’m in trouble for something” feeling! Love your mom’s new name and your friend’s Rachel. My mom got her nickname in college and it’s stuck all these years — she won’t even go by her real name, which I think is beautiful. Isn’t it funny how we grow into our names, or part with them and adopt something else that we’re comfortable with? Thanks so much for your take on this one!

  6. I don’t judge a writer by her name but maybe agents and publishers do. I tend to not remember or notice the author’s name unless I find I’m loving the book. My bad. But I think you may have a point. Age discrimination is real, so depending on the genre, say, if you were writing YA novels or a slasher book, you might go with D.A. Pierce. But is it really going to limit your chances? Not sure.

    • I’m not sure either, Lynne, and that’s my dilemma. How to stand out as unique and qualified, but not so old that I don’t have more than one book in me, ha! I don’t really give the whole subject much thought when I’m browsing the bookshelves, looking for something new to read; why is it that I’m stressing over my own name? Does that sound like procrastination to you??? And if it walks like a duck, and clucks like a duck….

    • Thanks for your opinion — by the way, I love your name, it’s unusual and unique, and I’m sure you were able to stand out rather than being “just another Debbie,” haha!

  7. I really give no thought to an author’s name whatsoever. Whenever I read anything, I read the first few paragraphs and I can generally tell if I’m going to be hooked or not.

    • I’m the same way, Terri — it’s the writing that captures my interest, not the author’s name. I’m glad to know I’m the only one fretting over this issue!

  8. Debbie, I’ll be honest and say I don’t give a hoot about an author’s name. What matters to me is his or her writing. I love the name Debbie. It reminds me of those little snacks “Little Debbie,” I hated them but my sister loved them. She had the bad habit of buying them for my kids even though she knew I restricted my children’s sugar and saturated fat intake. Whenever I’d refuse them she’d say, “Aw. Don’t you want to unwrap a smile?” It was the slogan Little Debbie used and it always made us crack up!

    • I’m glad “Debbie” conjures up such a happy memory for you, Bella; however, I’ve never particularly liked my name. It was just too common, and the older I get, the less I like it! There’s that connotation with “debutante” that just doesn’t fit me; and what about that porn film Debbie Does Dallas and the Saturday Night Live’s character Debbie Downer? Shudder!

  9. A few of my best friends are named Debbie…we were all born in the 50’s. I say use your name…it’s who you are! I think I should go look up some of your work!

    • Thanks, Dawn — I guess I just hate that Debbie is so common. We had a full dozen Debbies in my high school graduating class and two years later, there were 19 — all spelled the same, too!

  10. Pingback: February 13: Change Your Name Day,Tortellini Day

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