that's me - Stephanie Boman!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Name calling

When I was in England last year my passport was stolen. While applying for an emergency passport at the U.S. embassy an agent asked, "Have you ever used any other last names?"

"Just my maiden name, Morlan."

"Are you sure?"

"Uh, yes," I said, my brain frantically searching an index of my life and any details I might be overlooking. My last name was Morlan growing up, and then I got married and it became Boman...is there something in between I'm forgetting?

"You've never used another last name?" she asks again, looking at me importantly, like a contestant on Password trying to coax the answer out of their teammate.

I start panicking. Is this some sort of test? Am I supposed to read between the lines? What does she really want me to say?

"No," I answer, sweating.

"Not something that starts with an "R"?"

An R??

"Uh, noooo . . ."

"Fine," she huffs in frustration. "Have a seat."

I did eventually get my passport and the "R" word never came up again. It wasn't until weeks later that it hit me.

I grew up Stephanie Elena Morlan, but I was born Elena Stephanie Rajcic, which is the name on my birth certificate, and which, as far as I know of, is the only place it has been used. Why? Well, my mother had divorced my older sister's father and was still legally using his last name when I was born. My "father", Edward Morlan, didn't marry my mom until she was pregnant with my little brother two years later. Yeah, great guy. Being traditional, my mom took the last name of the man she married, so at that point, she, my brother and I became Morlans.

I knew my name on my birth certificate was different from the one I used growing up, but I never thought much of it. My family called me Steffie, not Elena, when I was little for reasons I'm not completely clear on, and the only last name I ever knew to use was Morlan.

So yes, there was an "R" name in my past, and it had completely slipped my mind. The agent must have okayed my passport, thinking my given name must be some family secret I hadn't discovered yet. She must have feared instigating a life-altering identity crisis would cut into her afternoon tea.

I go back and forth on legal documents, sometimes using Stephanie Elena, other times Elena Stephanie...it can get a little sticky at times.

I'm thinking about names because when I was younger I hated the last name Morlan, and decided when I was an author I would be Elena Dahl (Dahl was my mother's maiden name). I loved the sound of it, it had special meaning to me, and I'd be shelved right next to one of my favorite authors!

When I started blogging I used my current name, Stephanie Boman, and registered it as a domain name. I developed a website and contributed to forums where everyone knows me by that name.

Recently, while fantasizing about getting a book published, I imagined my name on the cover, and remembered my desired nom de plume, realizing too late that I can't use Elena Dahl when all my networking has been under Stephanie Boman! Not that I don't like the name Boman, which, apart from the fact that 99% of people insist on inserting a "w" in it, is a perfectly nice name. But the name Stephanie Boman doesn't roll trippingly on the tongue as does, say, Melissa Marr, Holly Black, Judy Blume, Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray etc., etc. . . .

But even if I got over the awkward rhythm of it (Stephanie Boman has the same number of syllables as Stephenie Meyer after all) there's the whole other issue of identity. What name do I most identify with? My signature is S Boman. I like the sound of S.E. Boman, but of all my names, Stephanie is probably the one I identify with the most, so I don't really want to hide it as an initial on a book cover. For many years I was "Steffie" (which became "Stephi" when I entered high school and wanted a more "mature" spelling), but as an adult most people who know me call me Stephanie.

What about you - have you given much thought to your author name? Happy with the one you use already? Are there any author names you particularly like?

I guess in the end, a rose by any other name . . .

3 comments:

Ellie said...

I hated my name, growing up...it was different. I didn't know any Ellen's. I like it now, but my married name is Wilson and Ellen Wilson was Woodrow Wilson's wive, a lst lady. It seems odd; my maiden name is Jackson. My Mom's name is Shirley Jackson,no she isn't the famous author, but is fun to think about! I think your name suits you, you grew into it! Wow, the "R" thang is something...you could use in another book!!!!
;-D I don't know I use my nickname a lot Ella
Ella Wilson...hmmm? Interesting thread~

Blooming Eventually said...

I remember all of this about your birth certificate and nom de plum! Once you reminded me. :)

I started writing the same year I got married. I wrangled with what to do, both as a personal name and a writing name. Karl's name was so unwieldy that I didn't really love the thought of taking it on. But I'd always been bored to tears by my two everyday names--Kimberly and Cooper. And I needed to decide and fast because I was beginning to publish. On the suggestion of an editor, I went with Kim Cooper Findling as a writing name, dropping the "-berly" and using both last names. Legally, after a year or so of marriage, I dropped Cooper. Now, most people assume I am hyphenated, and legally wed to my maiden name, which can cause some confusion. But I've come to like the distinction of my mom/wife name (real name, really) and my writing name, which is tied to my history and self more than my legal name. And--it took me years to realize this--by becoming Kim Cooper (my old ubiquitous anonymous former names) and adding Findling (completely obscure and uncommon) I became instantly googleable. People who used to know me can guess it's me but there is no one else with all three of these names. Without thinking about it, I achieved uniqueness. It's come in very handy as a self-promotional tool! Who knew, ten years ago. So thanks to Tanya, my first editor, and Karl, for the wacky last name! (There's a funny story about that, too. The first time I told Libby our last name, she laughed out loud)

Rose Cooper said...

It's funny--I just came across this post and I'm in the same boat as you. Rose is my middle name. My birth name is Barbara Rose but I grew up with everyone calling me Rose. But for legal things I have to always use Barbara. I did consider for a bit using B.R. Cooper for my books. I considered my maiden name too, since I started writing with that and had my first online presence with that name (Rose Thomason). It seemed to all come together on its own though.

I think Stephanie Boman is a good author name :)

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