(From Anna’s November 18, 2018, newsletter)
The secret is out!
I’ve been hiding something from you. Like many of my characters, I’m not who you think I am at first glance. I’ve been secretly writing under the name Anna Argent for years, but before that, I was known as New York Times bestselling author Shannon K. Butcher.
There are lots of reasons why I moved to a new pen name. Some of them were emotional while others were based in logic. While the decision to juggle two names has drastically complicated my life, in the end there was no question as to whether or not I should write under a new name. The only question was what name would it be? I chose Anna Argent in honor of my mother, Pollyanna, who always saw the silver lining in every cloud.
Now for the why of it all.
I never wanted to write under the name Butcher. When I got my first writing contract, I was excited and nervous, as you can imagine. I’d worked for years, starting over 30 books and finishing 9 before I felt like I was good enough to publish anything. After that, I kept honing my craft while I searched for an agent. Once I had one, my work sold quickly and there was a flurry of activity around the event. One of the things that had to be decided was what name I’d use.
Since my husband at the time was a writer and his success was growing quickly, my agent and editor wanted me to use my legal name—his name. I didn’t want that. I was a romance writer and Butcher wasn’t exactly romantic. I suggested some alternatives and pushed back, but I was the newbie. I had no experience and was worried that if I didn’t give in, I’d be labeled as difficult to work with or, even worse, lose the contract entirely. In the end, I caved and hoped for the best.
From a practical standpoint, those with more experience than me thought the Butcher name would gain me attention—something very hard for a new writer to get. And they were right, but some less pleasant consequences haunted me. Namely, some readers thought that if I was married to someone, I should write like them. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m my own person, not an extension of my husband. I have my own thoughts and ideas and writing style. Those readers who picked up my work because of him were often disappointed, which was not the reaction I had hoped for when I started this career. I got feedback that, in a nutshell, said what a horrible Jim Butcher book I wrote. To which I thought, “Of course, it’s a horrible Jim book. I’m not him.” In short, using the wrong name remains the biggest regret of my professional writing career. I should have fought harder for what I wanted, for what my gut instinct was telling me.
After a few books, my name was established and it didn’t really matter if I liked it or not. I’d already gone too far down that path. I was stuck.
Then something amazing happened.
With the advent of self-publishing, I was no longer bound by past constraints or to what others wanted me to do. I was in charge of my own career. I was free to do what I wanted. So I did.
For years I wrote under a secret name, guarding my identity like a treasure. There were no photos of me, no comments tying me to my past, and only a handful of people who even knew what I was doing, much less the name under which I was doing it.
Talk about a feeling of freedom! I was no longer an extension of someone else. I was my own person, able to write what I wanted, how I wanted, without worry that a large group of people would dislike the work because they were expecting it to be like someone else’s stories. My stories were judged on their own merits. I got fan mail and comments on social media and reviews that were all about the writing, not who I was married to. It was everything I’d hoped for and one of the best career decisions I’ve ever made.
Even before the first Anna Argent book was published, I knew this name change wasn’t a secret I’d keep forever. I had something to prove to myself, but once I did, I knew I would want to share my new work with those who loved my old stories. My style has matured, but it hasn’t really changed. I studied writing craft from a variety of experts and developed new skills, but the heart and soul of my stories remains the same. On top of that, I’m writing faster than ever. I published ten projects in three years—projects that are some of the best work I’ve ever done. I have enjoyed every one of them, and I think that joy and my feeling of freedom shines through in the work. I hope you agree.
For those of you who might feel slighted that you weren’t in on the secret, please accept my apologies. It was never my intent to trick or hurt anyone. I had to go down this path for myself. It was either that or quit writing under the shadow of my old name. I knew I would miss writing far too much to give it up, so this was my only solution.
I hope you find the surprise of a pile of new books to read soothes the sting of being kept in the dark.
Anna Argent (formerly writing as Shannon K. Butcher)