AKA: From Pen Names to Real Names

New Adult is the genre that keeps on giving, in part thanks to the self-publishing boom, as we readers and our towering TBR piles can attest. In the June issue of RT, we revealed that a New Adult series you may have already enjoyed, Unfiltered, which was written by 12 different authors — was actually penned by some familiar faces! Read on for the reveal. 

This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of RT Book Reviews.

What do authors do when they’re alone together?

They plot, of course!

Last year we profiled a group of 12 new adult authors working together to write the connected series Unfiltered, centering around a murder at a coffee shop and the ensuing cover-up. This month, we’re revealing who five of those writers really are — authors you already know!

“We were in the pool, drinking and talking, and I proposed that we do a joint series,” says Melissa Marr, who penned the series starter, Unfiltered Unlawful (Self-published, ’14), as Ronnie Douglas. The group decided on the new adult genre because, “It was something none of us had tried before. We were all coming at it as newbies.”

Self-publishing the joint venture was a big undertaking, but luckily Jeanette Battista — who wrote her series offering, Unfiltered Unhinged (Self-published, ’14), as Jane Lukas — was already wellversed in the independent route, and this time around, she appreciated having help.

“It was nice to be able to split up all of the tasks involved in putting out a self-published novel. Usually I have to do it all (getting the cover, finding the editor, doing the marketing, proofreading, reaching out to other authors to blurb), but with so many people, it was a welcome change to relinquish some of the work involved,” Battista tells us.

It was a learning experience for everyone.

“The self-publishing process was extremely educational, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing what did and did not impact sales,” Marr says. “For me, it was less about control or finances than it was about learning more about marketing.”

“The part I like most [about self-publishing] is the transparency,” agrees Rachel Vincent, who wrote Unfiltered Untouched (Self-published, ’14) as Katy West. “I can see, in real time, what affect my promotional efforts have on sales. I no longer feel like I’m shouting into the dark, hoping someone hears. Now, if no one hears me, I face a different direction and grab a megaphone.”

But why the pseudonyms? Any debut author will tell you — getting attention is difficult.

“I loved the anonymity of it,” Marr says. “Seeing reviews without the reader knowing any of my other books was awesome.”

And through it all, they had each other. Marr says, “It was an amazing thing to be able to come together with a dozen friends from various genres and experiences to create and share a world and books. It’s been a bonding experience that surpasses what we’ve learned.”

So, let’s meet the ladies!

Melissa Marr is … Ronnie Douglas

Why did you pick Ronnie Douglas as a pen name?

Veronica is one of my middle names and Douglas is my mother’s maiden name and our Scottish clan name. It’s also a name I used at bars in my younger days when I met people but didn’t want to give a name they could use to find me later.

Why new adult?

I’ve had both my adult and YA books called new adult at various points, so I thought it would be fun to set out to do it rather than simply be categorized as it.

Tell us about your Unfiltered book.

I wrote book number one (although the first chapter was open to all the group so they could seed their character into it). Once upon a time, though, I dated a drug dealer and managed a biker bar. Unlawful was very much a “write what you know” book for me. I have been on motorcycles since I was a child (my father rode). I’ve dated bikers and tattooists, and there’s a beautiful Harley in my garage.

What else is Ronnie writing?

Undaunted is a new adult, coming out in September. It’s about what happens when Aubrey’s family’s finances crash. She has to move to Tennessee to live with her grandmother. While there, Aubrey attends community college and takes a job at the local biker bar, where she ends up falling for exactly the wrong sort of man — the enforcer for the local motorcycle club.

Jenna Black is … Abby Lombard

How did you choose your pen name?

You know that game where you create your stripper name by combining the name of your first pet with the name of the first street you lived on? Lombard is the first street I remember living
on and Abby the Keeshond was the first pet I had.

Tell us about your Unfiltered title.

Unfiltered Unveiled (Self-published, ‘14) is book number nine. It’s a spicy ménage story about a college quarterback, Blake Malone, who’s bound for the pros. He’s struggled to keep his bisexuality a secret, fearing that if anyone found out, his career would be over. When he and his girlfriend, Stacy, start taking ballroom dance lessons from Blake’s ultra-sexy neighbor, Misha, they both find themselves drawn to him.

What else is Abby writing?

A planned trilogy, Cupid’s Arrow, beginning with Winner Take All (Self-published, Apr.). The series revolves around a mysterious billionaire, Cullen P. Kincaid, who holds house parties at his luxurious Cupid’s Arrow estate. I liken them to a new adult version of the old TV show Fantasy Island, which I used to love when I was a kid.

Rachel Vincent is … Katy West

What did you like best about writing new adult?

I love the coming-of-age aspect. We’re writing about women who are grown, but still learning who they are, and that resonates with me, even though I’m in my 30s.

Tell us about your Unfiltered book.

Unfiltered Untouched (Self-published, ‘14) is about a woman who thinks she’s joining AA to quit drinking, but joins a celibacy club instead (“The rhetoric is surprisingly similar!”), and accidentally vows to stop having sex until marriage. I’d never written a character with substance abuse issues, and I wanted the challenge of exploring Allie’s problems without writing a “heavy” book.

Are you writing other new adult titles?

I’ve started publishing a new adult romance spinoff of the Shifters series, which launched my career [as Rachel Vincent]. It’s been fun to look at a world I’ve known for years through a new, younger set of eyes!

Cynthia Omololu is … Lynne Jaymes

Why did you pick your pen name?

Lynne Jaymes is a mash-up of my middle name and my maiden name. And then I stuck a “y” in it, just to keep it classy.

Why new adult?

It felt very freeing to just let go and let my characters do what they wanted.

Tell us about your Unfiltered book:

Unfiltered Unknown (Self-published, ‘14) is number two in the series. The story is about Dillon, an up-and-coming rock star, and his best friend Savannah, who audition for an American Idol-type show. I did a lot of research to make it as authentic as I could, and it was a total blast to write.

What else is Lynne Jaymes writing?

One True Thing (Self-published, ‘14), along with companion novella “One Last Night” (Self-published, ‘14). College students Ty and Jenna get to know each other — but Ty is hiding a big secret.

What was your favorite part of self-publishing as a “debut” author?

Readers really get involved and recommend books that they love to others. I find my new adult audience really involved and vocal about what they like and what they don’t. The beauty of self-publishing is that it’s so fast — you really feel like you can turn on a dime and give the readers what they like.

Jeanette Battista is … Jane Lukas

Why did you want to write new adult?

So much changes when you graduate high school, whether you go on to college or not. And writing YA means you have to opt out or “shut the door” on certain scenes. You don’t necessarily have that in same constraint in new adult.

Tell us about your Unfiltered title.

My book is number four in the series, Unfiltered Unhinged (Self-published, ‘14). It’s about a young woman named Cass who tries to bail her twin brother out of trouble by racing her motorcycle. She ends up needing the help of a scorching- hot mechanic, Dev, who brings her trouble of his own.

Are you writing more new adult?

I am writing, under Jeanette Battista though. The first in the series is called Played (Self-published, ‘14). It’s about a girl dealing with the aftermath of being in an abusive relationship during her freshman year in college and how she comes around to being willing to try dating again. I wanted to use my YA name with this one because I thought that name was more widely recognized and that the story could benefit from greater exposure.

What was it like to start over as a debut author?

The competition in the market has only gotten more and more fierce, so it is harder to stand out. You have to be really creative to get your book an audience and attention.

There you have it! The Unfiltered books are available now! For more New Adult goodness, why not visit our Everything YA page? 

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