books Famous Authors Who Used Pen Names

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Think you really know your favorite author? It may be surprising to you to learn that a number of famous authors are actually using a pen name, pseudonym, or nom de plume. In fact, the use of a pen name in place of an author's real name has been quite popular throughout history of writing for a variety of reasons, from avoiding a political danger due to a controversial literary work, avoiding a previous failed attempt at literary success, or utilizing a false name in order to completely distance and author from his or her public identity to write a different genre.
 
Who are some famous authors who used pen names? You might be surprised. Some of the authors featured here are regarded as the most beloved in the industry and many are even Nobel Peace Prize or Pulitzer Prize winners.
 
You’ll find authors such as Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Louisa May Alcott, the Bronte Sisters, and many other authors who used pen names that might surprise you.

Think you know your favorite writers? Read on to find out which authors have used pen names.

Mark Twain is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Famous Authors Who Used Pen Names
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Pen names: Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, Josh

Clemens assumed a number of pen names before settling on Twain, after years of working on Mississippi riverboats where the term "mark twain" was shouted out as a way to mark the depth of the river, as measured on a rope. In Life on the Mississippi, Twain explains, "I was a fresh new journalist, and needed a nom de guerre; so I confiscated the ancient mariner's discarded one, and have done my best to make it remain what it was in his hands."

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Birthplace: Florida, Missouri, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Works: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, The Prince and the Pauper The Mysterious Stranger, + more

Also Ranked

#1 on The Greatest American Writers of All Time

#10 on The Best Writers of All Time

#78 on The All-Time Greatest People in History

#59 on The Greatest Poets of All Time

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Benjamin Franklin is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Famous Authors Who Used Pen Names
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Pen names: Mrs. Silence Dogood

When Benjamin Franklin was a teenager living in Boston, his older brother James founded the The New-England Courant as the colonies' first independent newspaper. Franklin had been dying to write letters for publication in the paper, and when those letters were rejected, he adopted the persona of a middle-aged widow and his letters were gladly accepted and printed, and are said to have been widely read. The ruse ended when Franklin's brother discovered Dogood's true identity, and young Franklin was forced to leave town for Philadelphia.

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Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Works: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, Compleated Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin, Bite-size Ben Franklin The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, + more

Also Ranked

#50 on The Greatest American Writers of All Time

#10 on The All-Time Greatest People in History

#2 on The Most Enlightened Leaders in World History

#50 on People We Wish Were Still Alive

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J. K. Rowling is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Famous Authors Who Used Pen Names
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Pen name: Robert Galbraith

J.K. Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter series, assumed her pseudonym in order to “publish without hype or expectation.” She called it a “liberating experience” and “a pure pleasure to get feedback from publishers and readers under a different name.” In 2013, Rowling published The Cuckoo’s Calling under her pseudonym.

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Birthplace: Yate, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom, England

Works: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry Potter: Symphonic Suite Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, + more

Also Ranked

#6 on The Best Female Authors of All Time

#24 on The Most Inspiring (Non-Hollywood) Female Role Models

#4 on The Greatest Living Writers & Most Famous Authors Today

#18 on The 30+ Best Living Novelists & Fiction Authors Today, Ranked

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Joe Klein is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Famous Authors Who Used Pen Names
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Pen name: Anonymous

Joe Klein doesn’t just write political commentary for TIME. In 1996, he also penned a novel called Primary Colors under his pen name. The book is a roman à clef about Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign in 1992. Klein publicly denied several times that he was the author, but eventually came forward at a news conference. The New York Times reported that Klein protected his identity in the same way a journalist protects his or her sources. “It wasn’t easy. But I felt that there are times when I’ve had to lie to protect a source, and I put this in that category,” he said at the conference.

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Birthplace: USA, Albany, New York

Nationality: United States of America

Works: Primary Colors, Politics Lost: From RFK to W: How Politicians Have Become Less Courageous and More Interested in Keeping Power than in Doing What's Right for America, Woody Guthrie. Die Biographie., Bill Clinton Colores Primarios, + more

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Nora Roberts is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Famous Authors Who Used Pen Names
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Pen name: J.D. Robb

Best-selling author Nora Roberts already had years of success under her belt before she began churning out books under a pen name. As explained on the author’s website, using the pseudonym offered a new writing challenge, and an opportunity to delve into a genre outside Roberts’ wheelhouse. While she’d previously focused on romance novels, after taking up the pseudonym, Roberts began publishing futuristic science fiction books, all part of the In Death series, beginning in 1995. After the twelfth book of the series hit shelves in 2001, Roberts finally revealed that it had been her all along. The series is still going strong — and the books continue to publish under the name J.D Robb, despite the fact that everyone now knows J.D. Robb is really Nora Roberts.

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Birthplace: Silver Spring, Maryland, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Works: Irish Thoroughbred, Sweet revenge, Spellbound, Sacred Sins Take This Man, + more

Also Ranked

#2 on The Best Romance Novelists of All Time

#87 on The Greatest Female Novelists Ever

#17 on The Best Erotic Fiction Writers

#4 on Authors Like Nicholas Sparks

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Ruth Rendell is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Famous Authors Who Used Pen Names
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Pen name: Barbara Vine

The prolific English mystery writer Ruth Rendell took up her pen name in 1986. Under that name, she released 14 novels. As the author once explained to the National Post, the two distinct bylines offered the opportunity to hone two distinct voices. The author also said she used Vine to explore specific topics, like the evolution of morality.

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Birthplace: London, England

Nationality: England

Works: A Dark-Adapted Eye, To Fear a Painted Devil, A Judgement in Stone, The Babes in the Wood Women of Mystery 1, + more

Also Ranked

#53 on The Best Female Authors of All Time

#31 on The Best Mystery Authors

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Anne Rice is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Famous Authors Who Used Pen Names
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Pen names: Anne Rampling, A. N. Roquelaure

Anne Rice, perhaps best known for her series The Vampire Chronicles, is yet another popular writer who’s released work under pen names. Her 1985 Exit to Eden and 1986 Belinda were published under the Rampling pen name. Both are erotic novels, the former exploring the subject of BDSM. In the 80s, Rice also published the Sleeping Beauty Trilogy under the Roquelaure byline. The series included The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty’s Punishment, and Beauty’s Release. These were also erotic BDSM novels that explicitly outlined pornographic tales and fantasies — which could explain why Rice opted for the pseudonym. In an interview with the Telegraph, Rice dismissed those books as “an obsession of youth – or something.” But as the Guardian points out, those novels continue to earn her around $50,000 in royalties each year.

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Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Works: Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, The Queen of the Damned, Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat The Vampire Armand, + more

Also Ranked

#60 on The Best Female Authors of All Time

#84 on The Best Catholic Authors

#26 on The All-Time Greatest Horror Writers

#65 on The Greatest Living Writers & Most Famous Authors Today

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Jayne Anne Krentz


Jayne Anne Krentz is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Famous Authors Who Used Pen Names
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Pen names: Amanda Quick, Jayne Castle

Romance novelist Jayne Anne Krentz has churned out books under her own name as well as two separate pen names since 1979. These names establish three separate literary worlds: Krentz for romantic suspense, Quick for historical fiction, and Castle for futuristic science fiction. But this wasn’t Krentz’s original plan. “Trust me, I did not set out to establish three pen names … The idea back at the start was that I would stick with the name that proved most successful,” she told USA Today. Eventually, these identities just kind of evolved until they stuck, giving the author room to develop distinct types of writing.