Author experience: Why I chose a new author name
After a decade of writing as Jane Costello, the novelist tells us why she chose the pseudonym Catherine Isaac for her tenth book
After a decade of writing as Jane Costello, I’d become used to answering to that name. Then my agent suggested that my tenth book should be written under a completely different pseudonym… and Catherine Isaac was born.
• The main reason for a name change was that my new book, You Me Everything, was so different in style from anything I’d written previously. As Jane Costello, I wrote light-hearted romantic comedies. But this new novel was about a woman who takes her ten-year-old son to France to rekindle a relationship with his father – her mother’s dying wish. It explored themes that were bigger and more important than anything I’d ever tackled before. It needed a more ‘serious’ name.
• My agent Sheila Crowley at Curtis Brown pointed out that, while Jane Costello was a top ten bestseller in the UK, that wasn’t the case in the rest of the world. She had ambitions for You Me Everything in the USA, in territories where I’d never been published before and even (to my disbelief) in Hollywood.
• While changing my name was straightforward in countries that had previously never heard of Jane Costello, it was less clear cut in the UK. I’d worked with my long-standing publishers Simon & Schuster UK since the start of my writing career and had built up a loyal following of readers. Why would they want to throw that away by not using my established pseudonym? On the other hand, a re-brand offered opportunities too. After a lot of consideration, I’m happy to say that S&S decided to take the leap with publishers elsewhere in the world; Catherine Isaac would be published in the UK too.
• Coming up with a new name isn’t as easy as you might think. It’s different from choosing a baby name (not least because I’m the wrong side of 40). It’s also not just about finding a name you like – I’d have been a Chloe or an Isabelle if it were. It’s got to suit you, to feel right and, ideally, actually mean something. So I plumped for Catherine – which is my middle name – and Isaac, the name of one of my three sons. The other two were slightly put out at first, but they’re now over it!
• At first, when people addressed me as Catherine at book events I’d look over my shoulder wondering who they were talking to. My new signature took some practice too. Some of the first books I signed looked a bit of a mess.
• There has been a real buzz about You Me Everything and in the UK the name change actually helped. Simon & Schuster made no secret of the new identity for Jane Costello; their hope is that readers who’d enjoyed my earlier books will now venture into Catherine Isaac territory too.
• Globally, my first Catherine Isaac novel has attracted the kind of interest I’d only dreamed about before. Whether that would’ve been the case if it had been sold as Jane Costello is doubtful. Foreign publishers might have looked at my previous work and assumed this was another rom com. Instead, You Me Everything brought my first opportunity to write for a US audience after it was acquired by Pamela Dorman Books, foreign rights have been sold to 20 countries and it’s been optioned for a film by Temple Hill and Lionsgate, the studio that made The Fault in Our Stars and Twilight.
• I’m proud of everything I achieved writing as Jane Costello and like the idea that readers might continue to enjoy the books I wrote under that name . . . even if my hope now is a future that holds many more Catherine Isaac novels.
You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac is published on 19th April by Simon & Schuster UK
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