I adore my pen name and the identity I have created. Truth be told, I like my pen name way more than my birth name. I have often thought of changing my name ever since I was a pre-teen when I was thoroughly convinced I had been adopted (those angsty teen years, amirite?). Having a pen name has allowed me to create a completely new persona, embracing a more outgoing part of myself that I hadn’t realized I was hiding.
Having a secret identity has allowed me to fully pursue my writing career in the most uninhibited and organic way that I can. It also really helps me with marketing because I am not marketing myself, I am marketing a client.
Speaking of, I cultivated a marketing career, writing non-fiction articles for magazines and websites long before I dove into fiction writing. I had kids in 2018 and then in the middle of 2020 my marketing career took a nosedive. I lost my clients due to everything being shut down, but I was extremely fortunate in that my husband has a steady job and we live frugally enough for me to stay at home with our children. I thought I was good with this being my lot in life - a stay-at-home mom maybe picking up part-time work once the kids were in school. Turns out, it wasn’t enough. My brain finally had it and it started screaming at me to write again. The stories I want to write now are a little too steamy for the small town I live in, so the next obvious choice was to create an entirely new persona. Now, it’s the only way I feel comfortable continuing my writing career. Publishing under a pen name helps me keep my private life and personal life separate.
A secret identity can also be so liberating for us introverts. Marketing is easier, asking for features and newsletter swaps is easier, going live on social media is easier because I can so quickly slip on a mask and become Ophelia. Becoming Ophelia (ha! that sounds like a memoir in the works) helps me go live on social media more than if I was presenting as myself. There’s something that shifts and I am immediately more extroverted, friendlier, less socially anxious with the mask of my secret identity in place. Though there’s a separation between my personal life and Ophelia, in some ways, you see a more “raw” version of me when I am in front of the camera. The introverted stay-at-home mom who constantly asks if her kids need to pee is gone. The extroverted Ophelia is here, and she is ready to partaaaaay.
As a stay-at-home mom, I am so reluctant to go back into the workforce. I wanted a job that allowed me to be flexible, home with my kids on sick days (because, let’s be honest, there are a lot of sick days lately), available for pickups and drop-offs, after-school activities and more. My children are only four- and two-years old so I wanted to get started on my writing early enough so that when they reach full-time school age, I have a decent idea of what our schedules will look like and what I can realistically get done in a day. As a former entrepreneur, the idea of being an indie author was appealing on so many levels. I could be fully in charge of my process, write the stories I want to write (and how steamy), as well as on the production schedule that fit me and my family’s lifestyle. But writing under a pen name was one of the few ways I figured I could tackle this adventure.
Creating this secret identity has been one of the most freeing things I have done for my creativity and my future. I can shift into “work mode” quicker when I’m Ophelia than when I’m me/‘mom’. It gives me the space I need to focus and hustle. It lets me be the author I want to be, connect with my audience, and pursue the projects I want to do.
Ophelia Wells Langley is the pen name of a mother to two boys. She loves reading, writing, and knitting, and you can almost always find her chasing after her high-energy children pretending to be a dragon or a dinosaur. Her debut novel, The Borderlands Princess, released November 28th, 2022. You can find her works here: www.opheliawlangley.com and you can join her late night writing sprints on TikTok @opheliawellsauthor