When I began writing fiction, I decided to use my full name as my byline. There was a very practical reason for this: Nancy is the 12th most common female name in the U.S., while Moore currently ranks as the 16th most common surname. (It was 9th when I made the decision, but it’s dropping fast as the U.S. gets more people with Hispanic backgrounds.)
Not that Jane isn’t also fairly common among people who trace their heritage to the British Isles. But only a few people who share all three of my names use them all, making it a reasonable byline.
People sometimes ask what name I prefer to go by. While I generally introduce myself as Nancy — except in situations where I’m promoting my fiction — I don’t care whether you call me Nancy or Nancy Jane. For that matter, it’s OK with me if you shorten my name to Nan or Nance, as some of my friends do.
The only thing that bothers me is when people get my name wrong. I went to high school with a Linda Moore. We weren’t kin and we weren’t close friends, so it really hurt my feelings when people called me Linda. Which happened a lot.
But while I don’t mind which version of my name you use, many other people do.
I go by the rule that each person gets to decide what name they prefer to use and how to pronounce it. It’s their name, their identity.
BVC’s Laura Anne Gilman is always Laura Anne. I know some Deborahs who will look daggers at you if you shorten their name and others who are happy being Deb or Debby. Likewise Rebeccas.
They also get to change it if they want to. Many years ago my friend Bill Swanson changed his first name to Walden. It took some getting used to, but now I can’t think of him as anyone but Walden. An old friend from college stopped using his nickname of Mike and started going by his given name, which is Larkin. I’m still working on remembering that.
It’s common for men who are juniors to go by a nickname in the family when they are young. My father was Mickey through high school, but he had dropped it completely by the time he met my mother and was always John in our family. And my Uncle Bud — who was Orren Lake Peterman Jr. — became Uncle Pete after my grandfather died. (I note that in three generations of Orren Lake Petermans not one of them ever used Orren. There’s an object lesson there in child naming.)
Then there are the problems caused by common names. When I was young, there was almost always another Nancy in my school class. At Clarion West, we had three Roberts in our class of 17 people. Fortunately, all three of them preferred different variations: Robert, Rob, and Bob. Robert lends itself to lots of variation, but I find that most people with that name tend to care passionately about which version you use.
My sister Katrinka has a name with many nickname possibilities, but she prefers to use her full name these days. I confess I still think of her as Trinka, but I always introduce her as Katrinka. It’s her name. She gets to decide.
I come from an informal generation in which calling everyone by their first name is the norm. Back in the days when I worked for legal services organizations, I didn’t mind my clients calling me by my first name. But I often called my clients Mr. or Ms. Brown or Smith — particularly if they were older than I was and African American. Sometimes a little formality is a good thing, especially with people who have experienced a lot of disrespect in their lives.
There’s only one time when I care whether you use my whole name and that’s when you’re talking about me in relation to my work. As a writer I am always Nancy Jane Moore.
Most writers feel the same way. Our bylines identify our work. They’re the name under which you can track it down.
Other than that, when talking to me, feel free to use whatever variation you prefer.
Just don’t call me Linda.