Saturday, August 18, 2012

What's In A Name? by Tim Myers (and friends)

I’ve been writing mysteries since 1993. My first published short story, My Late Aunt Hattie, was an 800 word short-short that combined elements of comedy, mystery, and the supernatural. It was published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and went on to be included in The Haunted Hour anthology.

I am the Agatha Award nominated author of over 24 novels published with Penguin, St. Martin’s, and Kensington, 10 of which have been IMBA National Bestsellers.

I am also the author of over 80 short stories. I’ve been nominated three times for the Derringer Award for Excellence in short mystery fiction, and I’ve had stories included in the Mystery Writers of America Anthology A Hot and Sultry Night for Crime, as well as Murder Most Crafty, and The Haunted House.

What’s in a name?
by Tim Myers (and friends)

When I first started writing in the early 90s, I never dreamed I’d ever use any name but Tim Myers for my work.  Sure, my birth certificate said Timothy, but that name has always felt as though it is one I have yet to grow into.  To those who know me, I’ve always simply been Tim.  So when I published my first short story in Woman’s World, my byline was never in question.  As I suffered through the next one hundred twenty three submissions before my second sale, I doubted many things, including my abilities, my talent, and dare I say my sanity, but I never gave my name a second thought. Ultimately I sold over eighty short stories before I started publishing novels with Penguin/Berkley as Tim Myers, and I thought I’d never have to give it another thought again.

Life’s funny that way, isn’t it?

Several books into my career, my agent contacted me and said that an editor at another Penguin line, NAL  Signet, wanted someone like Tim Myers, only female.  He called and asked me for recommendations, and I instantly asked, “Why can’t I do it myself?”  This led to a series of discussions between the three of us, and then, after two partial submissions, the editor finally agreed that I’d captured the voice they’d been looking for.  There was one catch, though.  I couldn’t publish the books as Tim Myers.  I struggled mightily with this decision to change my name, but finally, I agreed, and thus Elizabeth Bright was born.  Like a great many difficult things we deal with for the first time, it got easier as the years rolled on.  In fact, it turned out that my mysteries sold better when they were told from a female point of view with a female author’s name.  And we writers are an empathetic bunch.  After all, we put ourselves in the minds of killers all of the time.  Why not the opposite sex?  The next time a new series for Penguin/Berkley presented itself, I was told that I’d need yet another female pseudonym for them, so Melissa Glazer was created. 

As I continued to write and publish, my next batch of names became more androgynous in nature, again at the insistence of my publishers, with names like Casey Mayes, Chris Cavender, and a few others I’m not allowed to disclose to this day.  When I started adding some independently published books of my own to Kindle and Nook, I swore I’d never use another nom d plume in my life. 

But then the complaints started rolling in.  Many of my gentle mystery readers were shocked by my tough suspense novels.  They wanted a clear warning, despite my best attempts to provide it, that the new and darker books wouldn’t be mistaken for cozies.  I created DB Morgan, and he now handles all of my suspense, though I share a byline with him.  There’s one more name I can mention, blossoming from my other Woman’s World work.  I sold them a romantic short story and submitted several more, all under the Tim Myers name, but I found there was an aversion to that new collection under my own name, so Kelly Roberts was created to address the situation.

I get notes all of the time from readers telling me that this is all very confusing, that they just want to read my books, and people constantly ask why I use so many names when I write.  As you can see, the answer is much too complicated to clear up with a simple response, and mostly I just say with a grin, “Different name, same writer.  I love my name, but my publishers don’t.” 

What it all boils down to is that I’m just trying to create the best fiction I’m capable of writing with each and every word I choose.  And in the end, isn’t that all that matters?  We writers are, in my opinion, nothing more than simple storytellers trying our best to amuse, entertain, and maybe even enlighten.

And nothing less.

No matter what name we use.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tim and Kaye, for offering this very helpful essay. I too write different styles - and found I was getting better response according to the name I used. When I write light, I use my given name, Thelma. But when I get into the dark worlds of espionage and psychopathy, I use either T.J. which is neutral, or one I love, as it was my great grandfather's name - Ransom D. Whittle! Thema Straw, MWA-NY

Tim Myers said...

Ransom is so cool! My great great grandfather was named Romance!

Thanks for this opportunity, Kaye.

It's always a joy to stop by!



Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Hi, Tim!! Always my pleasure to have you here at Meanderings and Muses AND to read your books (under whichever name they're published).

Thanks very much -

Patty said...

Shakespeare said it best "A rose by any other name..." I love most of your books, I think I found Chris Cavender first, then Melissa Glazer. Once I checked them out on SYKM I knew I had to start reading them all. Haven't managed them all yet, but all on on my "to read" list.

So, thanks to your publishers who recognized some great talent and let you have an outlet for all of it, male or female names.

Tim Myers said...

Thanks for your kind words, Patty!

Someday I hope to reveal all of the names I've written under in the past, but it probably won't be any time soon!

And as always, thank you, Kaye!

Earl Staggs said...

Tim, I've always known you were an excellent writer, but I didn't know you were also a crowd. I agree it's not all about the name on the cover. It's the story between the covers that matters.

Tim Myers said...

Thanks so much, Earl! Good to hear from you! I appreciate your comment so much, given your own storytelling skills!