I’ve always believed in reinventing yourself.
In my mind, it always starts with a name. In the early days of my Internet presence, I used to style myself The One With Too Many Names. I was a lot more active in fandoms back then, and I whenever I changed forums or fandoms, I’d pick a name, stick with it for a while, then let it go. That slowly crept into real life as well; I’d never been a fan of my birth name (which is why I haven’t used it professionally in about a decade), so I experimented with different nicknames and variations as I moved around.
These days, being a writer adds a whole other dimension to it. I don’t stick to any one genre, so I try to write under pen names I feel are a good fit for the kind of works I put out into the world. This also affords me the luxury of keeping my works separated from each other — and also anonymous, unless I choose otherwise. I wrote fanfiction under several nicknames, was credited with my soon-to-be deadname for a contribution to a research paper, and sold my first novel as Keira North in 2021.
Keira North wasn’t my first choice, or my second one. At first, I wanted to write as Rikke Vader: short, sweet, and fitting for a sci-fi book. I chose Rikke to honor the Germanic side of my heritage, and Vader as an homage to Star Wars (I used to be a fan), but I ended up dropping the latter when I remembered D*sney’s lawyers are meaner than mine, and Rikke on its own didn’t really do it for me.
The second choice I considered was Keira Sun, a combination my favorite Irish feminine name and a reference to one of the rarest sights in Dublin (sunshine). It took my Eastern-European brain a little while to realize that Sun is also one of the most popular surnames in China, and the last thing I wanted was to misrepresent myself as being of East-Asian descent. Was I overthinking it? Maybe. But, as Michelle MiJung Kim and others taught me, unintentional harm is still harm. I’m with her on this one*.
At this point, I had a book contract, half a pen name and a headache, and I serendipitously landed on Keira North, which is another (very subtle) autobiographical reference. It’s also a nod to the Starks of Winterfell, if you squint.
As for what’s in store, I think I’m done being Keira North for a while (at least until I’m ready to write the sequel to Gifted). The future is vast and filled with possibility. And fewer life-shattering historical events than the last few years have brought, thank you very much.
* There’s a larger conversation to be had here around impact vs. intent, especially when talking about cross-cultural communication, but that’s something for another day.