Incognito

Kyle Garret isn't my real name.  Not really.  My name is Kyle, yes, and Garret is my middle name, although it's spelled Gerrit (you can thank the Dutch for that).  But my actual last name is no where to be seen.

This has been a point of contention among some in my family, particularly as my work has become more available.  When I had a small Q&A session at the library in my home town recently, someone specifically asked me why I have a pen name.

My wife, Nicole, chimed in with the obvious answer, that really only applies to "I Pray Hardest When I'm Being Shot At" -- the book is non-fiction, and the story centers on my family, so using my real name might come back to haunt me in some way.  As Nicole pointed out, people can find pretty much anything on the internet these days.  They could probably find my real name, too, but why make it any easier than it already is?

My answer was split into two parts.  There's the simple answer, which is that my real last name is a mouthful, with two hands worth of letters that are easy to mispronounce.  I joked that I someday hope to publish a book that has my name in big letters on the front, and my real last name is too long for that.

Then there's the hard answer.  In a nutshell, I like having a distinction between my writing life and my non-writing life.  It would be insane to say that the two don't inform each other, or aren't nearly identical.  But it's essential for me, when I sit down to write, that I'm able to remove myself from my own life.

That might seem kind of strange for a man who just published a book of non-fiction and whose fiction is largely based on things that have actually happened to and around him.  All the things in my life since the day I was born until right this very second influence my writing.  But no matter how much of that might make it into my writing, I still need to be able to step away from it, to look at it as a writer, not as the person living that life.

There's a saying out there somewhere about how each day brings you new life lessons or some such new age sounding wisdom.  I don't think that's true.  I don't deny that most people probably change, at least in small ways, over time.  But I don't think those changes happen automatically or even on a regular basis.  I know the person that I am will evolve over the course of my life, but I don't know how quickly.

On the other hand, I think every single time I sit down to write, I evolve as a writer.  It might not be in bold, perceivable ways, but I know it happens.  It's not unlike going to the gym, really, in that exercising my writing muscles only serves to make them stronger.

There's also a certain level of pride of ownership when it comes to my writing life.  It is mine in a way that nothing else is.  My friends, my family, my wife -- they might influence my work, but at its core it's something that I create and that I alone create.  There are people in my non-writing life who gave birth to me, raised me, befriended me, taught me, and guided me.  I'm the sum of my life.  But in my writing life, I'm the driving force.  I'm paramount.

Wow, I drifted into pretentiousness there. 

Now I just need to decide if I need different pen names for different genres...