Coming up with a pseudonym like Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling did with the very mundane-sounding Robert Galbraith is actually pretty easy. The first step is think of a hero that isn't the same gender as you and make sure you never used his or her name in anything you've written before.
After shocking the literary world by coming clean about her Robert Galbraith alter ego and then creating an avalanche of sales for her book, The Cuckoo's Calling, Rowling is finally revealing the story behind her pseudonym. "I chose Robert because it is one of my favourite men’s names, because Robert F. Kennedy is my hero and because, mercifully, I hadn’t used it for any of the characters in the Potter series or The Casual Vacancy," Rowling writes on the Robert Galbraith website. People can relate to that, right?
Coming up with the last name Galbraith is a little harder to explain. Rowling writes:
When I was a child, I really wanted to be called ‘Ella Galbraith’, and I’ve no idea why. I don’t even know how I knew that the surname existed, because I can’t remember ever meeting anyone with it. Be that as it may, the name had a fascination for me. [...]
So, apparently, if you never, ever made up a name for yourself as a child, you might be out of luck here. But even though Rowling took elaborate measures to create such a ho-hum name, there are still people out there actually named Robert Galbraith. And Rowling knows the newfound attention on that name is partly her fault. "I can only hope all the real Robert Galbraiths out there will be as forgiving as the real Harry Potters have been. I must say, I don’t think their plight is quite as embarrassing," Rowling wrote.
Taking a page from Rowling's book, I will now just begin writing posts under the name Dolly Munroe.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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