In November, 2019, James Patterson released Ali Cross, a spinoff series from his wildly popular Alex Cross books. In case you've already forgotten (or you never knew), *I* am Ali Cross.
I'd been publishing for ten years as Ali Cross. Teaching at conferences, mentoring young writers, and generally trying to embrace "the Awesome that is Ali".
At first, I hoped that the shared name would do me some good: People would search for the Ali Cross book, and find the author Ali Cross as well, and maybe they'd give me a click and a buy. It was worth hoping for.
Six months later and none of the Googled search results turned up ME, just Patterson's Ali.
I worked hard to improve my site's SEO (search engine optimization) and it helped—but by January 2021, I think I knew what had to happen next.
It wasn't until I hired a Melissa Storm to help me increase book sales that I got the push I needed to abandon my beloved name and take up another. It's hard to argue with facts, and the facts were that since the release of Ali Cross 1, my sales have gone down. Perhaps it's not related but why take the chance? And the more books Patterson releases in the series, the more my name and books will be harder and harder to find.
I've seen lots of authors adopt a pen name, but I've never seen anyone angst about it as much as me. I drove my fan group crazy with all the angsting, I'm sure. (Yes, around these here parts, "angst" is a verb.) For some reason, I've always been very conscious of names. How names are pronounced, how people shorten their names, how people suit—or not—their names.
When I was little, my family called me George, because they expected a baby brother. My sister called me Sam because...I actually don't know. And my mom called me Sunny and Baby when she was loving on me. But my actual name was Sandra, aka Sandi.
And for as long as I can remember, I despised the name. I loved the movie Greece, but I hated being called Sandi. (And don't even with the "Sandra-D" thing.)
My parents had named me after my grandfather, Alexander Ramsay Banks Nelson. (Isn't that a cool name?) But when I was born, I was tiny, and my dad supposedly said, "We can't name such a tiny baby such a long name," and so they shortened Alexandra to Sandra. Darn them.
Anyway, I suppose you're here for the "why I adopted a pen name", not the whole "why I changed my legal name" saga, so let me get back on course...
Names are powerful, and what I'm called, who I'm known as, wasn't anything I could be flippant about. Hence, the week of angsting and agonizing over what name to choose.
My son Xander suggested Aria. The name is pretty and he thought it suited me since I spent half my life pursuing a career in vocal performance. (And I did perform as a professional opera singer for about five years before my babies were born.) An aria is a solo vocal piece in opera. They're grand and powerful, full of emotion and so special. *blush*
I've always tried to stay close to my family roots when naming myself (I've been Lexi Banks, Everly Ramsay, Ali M. Cross and Alex Banks before), but I'd already used up the decent paternal ones. On my mom's side, there was Allan, Frew and Clark.
Aria Clarke not only sounds nice, I can write it well (hey, an important thing to consider since I sign my name in a lot of books!), it wasn't heavily used online and most importantly there aren't any other authors currently listed on Amazon with that name.
The problem is, I have my granny's name as Margaret CLARKE in my Family Search account, but after I'd done all the changing of all the things, my aunt told me that Clark-with-an-e is the English spelling and that actually my Scottish Clark ancestors spell their last name without the e.
Oh well, what's done is done, and Aria Clark-with-an-e looks better with it than without it. Or so I tell myself.
So that's why I changed my author name from Ali Cross to Aria Clarke. It's quite a process to change everything, but I'll get it done gradually. And for all I know, tomorrow someone else named Aria Clarke will begin publishing, and I'll have competition again, but I doubt there'll be another catastrophic Clash of Names like with the Patterson books. I mean, it's James Freaking Patterson. Few people reach his level of awesomeness.
I'm throwing myself all the way in with this name change, so I hope you'll support me and not think some stranger is showing up in your inbox or blog feed or whatever!
Have an awesome day, my friends!