Using a pen name makes for some interesting conversation starters at local book signings. "Do I know you? You look familiar but I don't recognize the name." Friends and family are confused and concerned about what they should call me in public or online. "Why Mary Russel?" they ask. "It's a combination of my middle name and my husband's first name," I explain. They usually smile and shake their heads.
I never liked my own name and I saw it as an opportunity to change my name to something I liked. I have been online since 2000 and used Mary Russel as an online name. Hence, my online friends only knew me as Mary Russel. When I was published, 10 years later, I felt it would be easier to explain the name change to a few face to face friends and family than to the much larger online communities of those who knew me as Mary Russel.
Using Mary Russel as my pen name seemed like a good idea at the time but if I had it to do over, I would have gone with my own name.
Kristen Lamb's observations regarding pros and cons of the use of pen names make me wish I had had the opportunity to read her blog before I made the decision to use a pen name.