Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Mailbox~ Pen Names

It's Monday so it's time to visit Tilda the Mailbox. This week's question is from a fellow writer.

Dear Jo,
You have so many pen names. How do you keep them all straight? How do you do the marketing and branding for that many names? I can only keep up with one. TIA, Greg

Okay Greg, let me take the first question. I use different names to distinguish the different genres of fiction and nonfiction I write. I'm an eclectic reader and an eclectic writer. In other words, I write almost everything. Currently my focus on healing after my stroke instead of writing.

J.L. Murphey is my suspense/ espionage/horror writer's name. I write suspense filled horror under this name also because in my mind it's writing suspense with zombies.

Cece Murphey, a distant cousin, is also a published author and ghost author. He's a Catholic priest and I'm a Protestant minister. Go figure. We see each other around and throw a "Howdy cuz!" back and forth, and ghosting business too in the past, because we actually like each other too. Enough trivia. 

For this persona, I'll drag out diaries, pull my hair back out of my eyes, and be total business as an author should be. I tend to dig deep into my personal skeletons buried deep in my brain closet. The place where the boogieman has a face and I'm terrified he'll find me. This writer can get so lost in the scenes and memories that everything short of death takes a back seat. This is the after hours activity writing. What's after hours for a writer? It's the time stolen from the beginning of the day and the wee hours of the night.

I used initials because someone once told me I write too much like a man. Of course, I was married before so all my nonfiction that is standard published is under that name. That's all going to change when I buy back my rights to all but one title. (See below)

Jo Ann Mefford is the name I plan on using for nonfiction.  There is a John Mefford, a distant cousin, is also another author friend. BTW my father's name is John also. I chose this name so my family could find my nonfiction. As many of you know, I have a huge extended family and they are my biggest supporters. All it takes is an announcement on the family website and a couple hundred books are bought within a month. Is that like nepotism? Nope, they are customers, as well as family.

For this persona, it's similar to the J.L. Murphey in looks and manner. There are stacks of research with annotations piled a mile high. It's strictly business and written mostly during business hours. Come five o'clock the computer is used for other things like word games.

Jolee Morriss is a combination of my first and middle name and Morriss was a street we lived on when I was a child.  I wanted to try my hand at southern fiction.  Notice the new cover!===>

For this persona, I'll use my worst southern belle slang. If you don't know what that is, listen or watch "Blue Collar" with Jeff Foxworthy of "you might be a redneck" fame. It's a version of the "good ol' boy" system crossed with a particular deep southern style of writing. I'll smack gum in lieu of chewing tobacco. Put on my jeans and a tank top t-shirt, and wee doggie, I'm in southern mode. By heritage, I'm a transplanted northerner. Shh, don't tell anyone. Keep it our little secret.

Grandma Jam is my pen name for my children's series. It's what my grandchildren call me. If you look Jam is my initials, but that's not why they call me that. I'm always in the kitchen cooking up something including jams and jellies. Since they have several grandmas from my children's previous marriages it was their way of distinguishing me from the others.

Now for this persona, I'll don an keeps all the eraser scraps and water colors from ruining my clothes as I illustrate my books. I'll wear my bifocals instead of my contacts. Of course, they will be positioned halfway down my nose and I'll make little squeal noises as I type- mimicking my grands as I originally told them the stories. Not that I can illustrate right now with a bum arm.

Johanna Kihara is a name that has not appeared in print yet. Shh, it's a surprise for next year or year after hopefully. Originally, my father wanted to name me Johanna but my mother couldn't pronounce it so it was shortened to Jo'Ann which when she pronounced it for years sounded more like "Dough Ah." Kihara is my mother's name. This is not to be confused with Jodie Kihara another author. No relation. It is also the only name that I will be writing under that does not have the initials "J" and "M." An author friend once advised me that when using a pen name to always keep the initials the same because it's easier to remember.

For this persona, I break out my photo of a glamor shot I had done twenty, er, um plus years ago and will wear red lipstick. But that's all I'm saying about this persona.

Jo Murphey is me. I'm also known as Joey, baby, honey, hey you!, Jojo, Mom, Mother, Momma, Mommie (depending on which daughter is talking), and a few other name calling names like "That witch with a 'B,' mainly used by my ex-husband.

But, I'm also Pastor Jo on pastorjosays dot blogspot dot com. With that also comes titles like Dr. and Reverend when and if I am able to go back to work.

I could be accused of having a split personality disorder if it wasn't all various phases of me and I know they exist. :o)

As for branding and marketing, I handle it like any other author. I have several Facebook pages under each author's name, my twitter account is under Jo Murphey just like this blog is. For publishing, I have a publisher's account on Smashwords, GoodReads, and CreateSpace I'm listed as either the editor or co-author.  Since I where all the hats anyhow, why not?

It would honestly be easier to choose one genre, or nonfiction to write instead of all these pen names, but life is short. Life is a smorgasbord, why not belly up to bar and write what you can? Since I'm an indie author, already pushing the boundaries, why not? It's a juggling match to be sure.

I think of it like Johnson's & Johnson's. They all all under one corporate umbrella, but they have many different products. When I promote and market each product it's like working in their advertising firm. I owned an international consulting firm which had  clients worldwide. Each one is handled like the separate entities that they were...not to mention their product lines. I guess the easiest answer is...I have experience doing the job.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.


  1. Wow, that's a full time job right there.

    1. And a half. My consulting business had five firms with over 300 products and 60 others with multiple products, so when you think about juggling 6 pen names is not that much.


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