There is a time-honored tradition of writers using pseudonyms, and the reasons are as varied as the names themselves. The great science fiction writer James Tiptree, Jr. was a woman, but that was a deep secret for many years. The romance writer Jayne Ann Krentz has used, in her career, seven different names, each to signal a slightly different genre of romance, from category to historical to futuristic/paranormal. The fine science fiction writer and editor Kristine Kathryn Rusch has used a variety of names, Kris Nelscott for mystery, Kristine Grayson for romance, and others used for collaborations. Sometimes a pseudonym protects a writer from criticism. Anais Nin, the diarist, wrote erotica at a dollar a page when she was young and hungry, but she didn't want her name attached to it, and in fact didn't expect it to be published. Other writers similarly protect themselves. One writer of my acquaintance possesses a name of such distinctive ethnicity that her publisher felt it would put off book buyers; she created a name that was easier to pronounce and recognize.
My own bibliography, to this point, includes a pseudonymous young adult fantasy trilogy. I chose the name Toby Bishop, based on a family name, as a way to inform readers that this was a slightly different genre from the one I had been working in. It's also a deliberately androgenous name, due to the persistent, if slight, prejudice against female authors.
Now, a new name for me! Based on my maiden name, my pseudonym Cate Campbell will indicate novels which are strictly historical, with no fantasy or science fiction in them. I've indulged my fascination with history before, particularly in my last three books, but now I'm fully immersed in the Seattle of the early 1920s. I've made an exhaustive study of medicine of the period in order to write about a young woman physician struggling to succeed in a male-dominated profession, against the wishes of her wealthy family, and a World War I veteran trying to find his balance in a deeply changed world.
The period of the 1920s seems to have caught the zeitgeist in recent years, and not just because of Downton Abbey. Philippa Gregory wrote a wonderful novel set in post-WWI Britain before she began on her Elizabethan books, and was partly the inspiration for my own three books to be set in this time period. There are a number of television shows set in the '20s, though the preponderance of them are British. It was illuminating to learn how the '20s in the United States are both different and similar to the period in England.
Benedict Hall, the first of the Cate Campbell books, comes out later this month. To say I will be watching readers' reactions with interest would be an enormous understatement! I just hope my readership will be willling to follow me into this new territory.