Category: Book News

I’m not who I thought I was – or why I stopped using pen names.

I’m not who I thought I was – or why I stopped using pen names.

I have a confession to make.

I am not who you think I am. I am not who I thought I was.

If you’re one of my readers or an online acquaintance, you may have wondered where I have been during these past few years. Where were my books? I briefly answered before with a lengthy blog post that I ultimately deleted for various reasons which are outside the scope of this post.

One of the shortest answers is: I was writing under different names.

I did this because I thought it made marketing sense to keep different genres under different names. This, however, became a logistical nightmare. Trying to market and promote three different people was wearing me thin. Trying to plan marketing and promotional tasks with such disparate identities and brands conspired to drive me to exhaustion and mental shut-down.

I stopped working. Lost in planning and scheduling, which, without fail, would break as soon as I eventually got back to work. One small error and a year’s worth of planning would shatter. I tried all this with the best intentions: to give readers a clear path through my backlist.

Space opera books under one name, post-apoc and cyberpunk under another, thrillers and mysteries under yet one more.

Recently, with the help of my good friend and co-author, Darren Wearmouth, I finally came to the conclusion that none of this stuff mattered. So what if I had different genres under my name? My readers are smart, they’ll figure it out. If they don’t like something, they won’t read it. Ultimately, it was quite a simple proposition once I had hacked my way through the grabby mental weeds.

This realisation meant I could delete three websites and get rid of hundreds of pounds worth of hosting and domain fees every year, not to mention costs for running multiple mailings lists reducing monthly outgoings.

Simplicity is often the key to most endeavours. I just misinterpreted that. I thought to be simple in this case was splitting genres into clear boxes (names and branding), but that quickly introduced a whole host of complications, such as: which name do I put book ‘X’ under? What if a book combines genres? What if one series really takes off and demands more of my time? What will happen to the other less successful names?

It was all too much.

I nearly made the same mistake recently with creating yet another name for a new series of technothrillers that I’m writing with Darren. That name was to be Tom Defoe. In fact, the book in question (The Enigma Key) even has reviews referencing that name, but I’ve since changed it back to me: Colin F. Barnes. I know this might be confusing to a small number of readers, but I figured it wasn’t too late to change.

That’s what this post is about. An explanation of sorts of why things may seem weird to those who notice it. All that matters now is that all books that I’ve written are now going to be under my name regardless of the genre.

You’re maybe wondering what names I’m talking about. It won’t take a genius to work that out if you have followed my news over the last few years across the interwebs. I already mentioned my latest book (Enigma Key) and the novella Blood Relic was initially co-written as Tom Defoe. The other is A.C. Hadfield. Although the latter is not quite as straight-forward as that, at least not for the first three, Prominence and Magnitude are me (with a little help from a friend for a portion of the second book).

So, Colin F. Barnes, A.C Hadfield, and Tom Defoe are all one dude. Or at least fragments of the one dude. I’ll be updating this site soon with all the covers and whatnot, but there we have it. One of my secrets flensed and displayed to the world.

The majority of the thinking that had led me down the pen name path was my general neuroticism. Writing full-time for a living, stradling indie and traditional publishing, is frankly bonkers. It’s 99.9% uncertainty and 80% WTF! – Yes, the maths don’t add up, but we’re dealing with a decidedly non-Euclidean industry where nothing makes sense, logic is for the weak, and Salvidor Dali would reject the whole thing as ‘being too whacky.’

All that said, there is still the question of what’s coming down the pike. I have at least five books either finished, almost finished, or in various states of quantum flux (submission) but as soon as anything collapsing its state into something recognisable, I’ll be sure to share it here.

For now, though, I can categorically say that the covers below are for mine and Darren’s new series. The Engima Key and Blood Relic are out now on Amazon. The Devil’s Spyglass will be up for pre-order in the next few days, and Alpha Hunt is due out in a couple of months.

I’ll post more details on these individually soon. Stay posted!

The Eddie York series: