Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How I Chose My Pen Name

Many people know that Annamaria Alfieri is not my real name.  Legally, I am Patricia King.  So why did I take another name and put it on the covers of my books?  And how did I choose what that name would be?

Well, first of all Patricia King is very common name.  There are 2950 of us in the USA, according to the 2010 census.  I have been confused with other women by the name and they have been confused with me--quite annoyingly once when one was booked on the same flight as I and changed her ticket.

These days, the most prominent author named Patricia King is a televangelist.  In fact her website says in huge letters, "Patricia King, TELEVANGELIST/ENTREPRENEUR."  Did I want people to think by stories were written by her?  Not really.

I also wanted people to be able to find me on the internet.  If you google "Patricia King," you get 30,800,000 hits in .35 seconds.  The first 16,000 or so pages are her, not me.  I didn't like the odds.

To avoid mistaken identity,  I needed a distinctive name.  One that could have its own url.  It would also be nice to sport one that had some romance to it.

Also choosing what to call myself gave me a chance to honor my female forebears: bright women who never had my opportunities for education or outlets for their considerable talents.  So I chose “Annamaria Alfieri”—my mother’s first name and her mother’s maiden name.  My pseudonym also brings me back to my Italian heritage.

Here they are: those women whose names I took.  Sabina Maria Alfieri Pisacane, (left in white, with a cousin of hers).  She was called Marietta and was NOT the quintessential Italian grandmother.  There was a lot of tiger in that mother of eight children.

And here is Annamaria Pisacane Puglise on the day of her wedding to my father, Sam.

Just a couple of months ago, I was rummaging in a file of family information and mementoes, looking for my father’s birth certificate when I came across memory cards for my great grandparents.  What a lovely surprise to realize that my maternal great grandmother, who was just “Nonna” in the family, was named—guess what?  Anna Maria Alfieri.  This makes sense, since there is a strong Southern Italian tradition of naming children after their grandparents.  My mother must have been named after her.  
Here she is, the original Anna Maria Alfieri with her husband, Francesco Alfieri.  She and her oldest daughter, Sabina, were both illiterate, as was Sam’s mother.  How amazing that I, the granddaughter of illiterate women, got to be an author.  And what a satisfaction to be able to honor them in the process.

Now, here we are side by side, the two Annamarias:


  1. This is a lovely account of your pen name. Because I write thrillers with a male protagonist, a few years ago I chose a man's name, Ransom D. Whittle. The real Whittle was my maternal great-grandfather. I never knew him, but he was a Methodist minister and owner of a trunk and bag company in Whittle Springs, near Knoxville, TN.He was related also to the Byingtons of Byington, TN, as in the actress Spring Byington. My protagonist is named Byington Bailey - Bailey was another Southern family name. And so the world turns.... Thelma Straw ( not named for anyone in the family!)

    1. T, Ransom D. Whittle is a great name for a character. I can almost see his clothing just from his name. And Byington is a wonderful name too. Spring was one of Sabina's favorite actresses, back in the days when you could call them caresses with impunity.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Triss. They were good women. complicated sometimes, but basically good.

  3. I so enjoyed Strange Gods- do you think you will be writing another 'Africa' novel?

  4. Good news! Annamaria is hard at work on the next Africa novel.