What's in a name?
I spent hours worrying about whether, or not, to use my real name - Karen Charlton - when submitting this book to publishers. I was unsure if indicating my family connection to the characters in Catching the Eagle would help or hinder my quest for publication. I was terrified of appearing like a woman seeking justice for a wronged ancestor, rather than presenting myself as a serious novelist.
As it turned out, I was missing a trick. The very first time I promoted the family connection behind Catching the Eagle, I landed a publishing deal. I now realise that publishers want the author to provide a marketing platform to sell their novel. The book has got to be different from all the rest.
Fortunately, the story behind Catching the Eagle (the genealogical research) seems to be already attracting attention. I have only put out a few tentative feelers concerning the marketing - but already my details are being sent to a 'leading Women's Magazine.' Apparently, they are looking out for a story just like mine. Of course, this may all come to nothing - but it is certainly a start.
A few weeks ago, I suggested to Dana Robinson, my publisher, that I would be happy to use my real name as the author of the novel and drop the pen name, 'Susanna Famelton.'
She instantly agreed: 'I don’t think you need it. Your given name has a much stronger appeal and the audience will immediately note that you share the same name as your hero.' So began the demise of poor Susanna Famelton (who has proved to be fairly resistant when I have tried to eradicate her from the internet.) Confessing I was a Charlton, did the trick when it came to getting the publishing deal. Now it seems that using my real name on the book cover might help increase the sales.
Ironically, although I have no problem with my surname Charlton; I have always had a really big problem with, my first name. 'Karen' was hugely popular in the UK in the late fifties and sixties, and I was very dismayed to find myself sharing a class with four other 'Karens.' For most of the time I attended that school, my fellow 'Karens' and I remained distinctive by using nicknames. I answered to 'Kit' for five years and grimly resolved to do my best to make sure that my kids had more unusual names.
Apart from the fact that 'Karen' was so bloody common, I was also horrified to discover that I had been named after one of my Dad's ex-girlfriends. I had big issues with this when I was younger - in fact, I think I'm still traumatised. I was also completely baffled about why Mum was so cool about it. But as my parents have just celebrated their Golden Wedding, I can only assume that it is another sign of the tolerance needed to make a successful marriage work.
Of course, I could have changed it by deed poll years ago, if I was really bothered, or asked Dana to keep the 'Susanna' part of my pen name. But I didn't. There's something about Dana's phrase 'given name' which sums up my reluctance to alter my identity.
My name, Karen, was the first thing my parents ever gave to me when I arrived into this world on that snowy November day. They must have spent time discussing it and considered it carefully; most young parents are quite excited about naming their first child. Despite its weird origins, my name was their gift to me. Changing it would be like throwing my very first birthday present back in their faces.
Like it, or not, I am a Karen - and will be until the day I die.
I take comfort in the fact that, although there were several girls named 'Gladys' in my Dad's circle of friends, fortunately he didn't get the hots for any of them.
Yep. It could have been a lot worse. ;)