Monday, April 8, 2013


Photo Credit: S. R. Karfelt

Recently I posed the question of writing under a different name to a group of writer friends. You’re familiar with writing under a pseudonym, right? My novels will be published in a few months under S. R. Karfelt, my real and actual name, but I’m also working on two non-fiction books. It is those books I’ve considered publishing under a different name, simply because they aren’t novels. They’re travel books that will be ala Glitter Globe style, meaning just for fun. Imagine the fun and adventure of taking a flight from New York to Athens via Reykjavik, Iceland and also managing to tag Denmark and Rome on the way, and that is the premise for the books. Airports of the world, and beyond! Or getting as many miles as possible when you travel (at no additional cost). It was a whim that came to me when I booked a recent flight from New York to Charlotte via Detroit. If you think that the airlines are just torturing you, then you’re missing the whole point. The journey can be the fun part.

Book premise aside, most of my writer friends encourage me to own my writing with my real name, and not bother with pseudonyms. That got me to thinking about my real name. Technically I’ve had four last names and I’ve only been married once. Yes, that’s three maiden names. There is the biological father’s name, for short we refer to him as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. You heard it here. Voldemort is my father. (It’s okay to say it out loud now, thanks to Harry. Thank goodness, because ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is way too long to put on a name tag, but when you have Voldemort on your name tag no one even talks to you.) That is why the Bohemians gave me their name. Pazicni is shorter, and doesn’t scare people. Unless you know us directly. Since there are at least half a billion Pazicni’s on earth – many of whom are my first cousins – it would make good marketing sense to write with that name. If only a fraction of existing Pazicni’s saw that book and bought it, (which they might, because we belong to the same tribe, and we’re supportive like that) I could take the proceeds from the sale and maybe afford to buy a direct flight someday. At least I think I could. Are there really such things as direct flights?

After years with the Pazicni Tribe I was adopted and received a third last name. The fun part of that is the person who adopted me had also been adopted late in childhood, and the name was of a nationality that fit neither of us. Do I look like a Patil-Balasubramanium? Neither did my adopter. So we had that in common, the random uncomfortable borrowed surname. That’s not the actual name by the way. If I told you what it was, I’d have to go change all of my passwords, and it’s the perfect password because even if you KNOW it, you can never spell it right and hope to access my remaining $17.14 writer goldmine.

So three maiden names in, I met and married a Karfelt, and briefly debated hyphenating all the names into a new and torturous one for my offspring. After about a nanosecond of deliberation I vetoed that and took Karfelt on the condition that we’d have it legally changed to start with a C. Didn’t want to have to spend the rest of my life correcting the spelling of everyone I ever met. It’s still on the to-do list, and all my paperwork is misfiled under C right where it belongs. I’m busy writing novels, okay?

S. R. Karfelt
So how many last names do you have? Is there a story there? How is your name misspelled? Is it just a letter, or something more fun? And do you spell out your name whenever you have to say it? I like to say, “K as in knife…”. 


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  2. Ouch. Never thought of that many names. Guess I lived a boring life.

    Karfelt largely sounds good. Though if this was the days of physical books, you'd want to pick a last name that starts with an "A" to ensure prime shelf space. A "B" is almost as good, which my father was kind enough to provide.


  3. My one and only last name is LaFerney. People who are French or educated can pronounce it. All others don't seem able. I'm always frustrated on sales calls. I'm certain those telemarketers or whatever they're called have a call list with my name spelled laferney or LAFERNEY because if that weren't so, SOMEONE would pronounce it right just once. Instead, I always get a "Mr. Laugh erny?" I never laugh. Sometimes I just hang up. Sometimes I say, "Mr. La FERNey." Sometimes they say, "I'm sorry." Sometimes they don't-so I hang up. Sometimes they do and they say, "I'm sorry, Mr. LAUGHerny." And I hang up. Why is it that everyone else who has a capital letter in the middle of their name can get a correct pronunciation except me?

  4. Wayne - That was very clever of your father to give you a "B" name. I hadn't considered prime shelf space. If I had, maybe I'd have wanted to drop the K entirely and go as Aarfelt. I like. Kinda pirately.

  5. JeffT - When I started reading that, I wondered what obscure French pronunciation you had. But none. La FERNey is obvious, and all I know about French is that you take the T sound out and insert it in odd places. That might not be right, but that's how I like to do it.

  6. Once, a friend misspelled my first name 7 times while trying to say goodnight. I think she was tired. :P
    my names are pretty easy to spell, it's the pronunciation that trips people up.

  7. You must have been thinking about me when you wrote this. I have only had two last names, but man are they doozies.

    The maiden name contained a large portion of the alphabet which tends to throw people off from the get go. It's just too much work to use all those letters so they just guess and usually wrong. It had the added benefit of being Irish but not of the usual O'..., Fitz... or Mc... way. In fact, I had to prove my membership to the tribe frequently even though I am first generation American. Then, of course there was the matter of the name being associated with the Norman invasion of Ireland and the fact that, saints preserve us, we are not Catholic. My father was - long, ugly story. Then, of course, the name was fodder for school children in the fact that the part of your anatomy you sit on could be inserted or flatulence was brought to mind by the mere pronunciation. And my mother thinks I spent my teenage years going by my first name because I was vain!

    Then I met the Fisher King and thought, "Score!" Only six letters, built in tribe, certain cache in the community - what could go wrong! Little did I know those six letters could be so screwed up.

    First there is the nationality issue which makes for fun times when your kids have Heritage Day at school. "No kids, you are not American Indian no matter what Pap Pap says. As close as I can figure he is either Slovak or Carpathian-Rusyn and, unfortunately, I think it's the latter. No I don't know what their traditional dress or food is. I'd look to Dracula, or Uncle Vlad as we like to call him, for clues. Just say your Irish. They won't believe that either."

    Then there's the spelling. I am pretty sure the ancestors were either poor, cheap or stubborn. Probably a combination of all three. When the ancestors arrived at Ellis Island, I am sure there was a "What the H... is that?" moment. It could have gone either way, but someone was too cheap to pay the bribe and buy more vowels. So my poor children play sports which involve having their names in the newspaper semi-frequently. "I know honey, it was a great catch and I am sorry they didn't even spell your name right. You should have seen the time they spelled dad's name like ..." Geez, they could be playing in the Super Bowl and wouldn't get their name spelled right. Oh wait, that happened to their uncle. Recently, I was at my long-time doctor's office and was asked for the spelling of my last name so they could retrieve my records. After spelling it three times and watching her write it wrong three times, she says, "I can't find any records for you." "Well, that is because you are incapable of listening and writing at the same time." People ask you to spell it and then write it the way they think it should be. Gets really old after a while.

    Then there is the pronunciation issue. The Fisher King regularly hangs up on people who mispronounce it thinking they are telemarketers. Not a good thing when you run your own business and they could be new customers who have no clue what to do with those six letters. Non-traditional consonant blends really throw people. I love when we get Mr. Osko. Makes me laugh every time!

    Sorry for the length. You obviously touched a nerve, but you've been there through it all! Thanks for letting me vent.

  8. When I first got married, I found out the history behind my husband's name. Truly they are "Douglas" but there was this whole war and killing and thus they were dubbed "Kill Gore" by the native tribes. Long story short... I hated it. I thought, how awful. I should be Donna Douglas. Who knew that I was meant to be a suspense/thriller/serial killer type writer with the last name KILGORE. I like it. I like it a lot. ^,^ I use my first and middle name (no last name) when I write poetry. I've toyed with using the first letter of my first name spelled out as Dee with some last name only I'd understand, should I ever go off onto a wild-tangent genre. I've debated the whole "do I need a new name" for writing YA? Maybe I do. I haven't found it yet. So, for now, I remain D.M. Kilgore, writing thrillers to keep you up all night with the lights on.