As a writer I think about identity and voice a lot. There’s my “authorial voice” – the way I write, favoured phrases, constructions and vocabulary; not so noticeable in prose (I hope) but identifiably Me in poetry (I hope). Then there are my myriad characters’ voices – how I coax them to talk and think as very different individuals and come alive for a reader.
Then there is the identity of the writer him or herself. There’s an interesting article in Mslexia about using pseudonyms as a writer, advocating changing name when changing genre. Most erotica writers pick pen names to save embarrassment. I’ve also heard that mid-list writers who are dumped by money-conscious publishers may reinvent careers with a judicious new identity.
“Myfanwy Fox” is my pen name. I chose it because it suggests feisty yet feminine, ageless yet modern and – sadly rather a key issue – there weren’t any other “Myfany Fox, writers” when I googled it (whereas my real name threw up all manner of strange people – only one of them being me).
To all intents and purposes, Myfanwy is me. At poetry events I answer to either name (they are not far apart sound-wise – a lucky chance) even though all my correspondence with organisers is from me, not Myfanwy. Online, I could pretend Myfanwy is more writerly, better-read or arty but I know she’d come a cropper; I couldn’t keep it up – especially on FaceBook. (There is some research suggesting most people’s online characters are remarkably close to their real-life characters – so trolls really are nasty, no-friend, obnoxious louts slobbing in unwashed y-fronts, one may cheerily assume.)
However, Myfanwy has brought a few unexpected pleasures, such as learning a little more about the Welsh (there’s Welsh blood on my mother’s side of the family I was once told but way, way back), my favourite phrase being hiraeth, a word with no direct translation into English but that means a special kind of nostalgia; a sadness of longing for a place or time so special it aches inside us.