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Women who write as men – from Blixen to Rowling


The publication of The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling/ Joanne Rowling, once again puts women who write as men into the spotlight. The Silkworm is Rowling’s second Galbraith mystery novel and pushes her another step away from the Harry Potter legacy.

Many women write under pen names but few actually use clearly male names. Aside from Rowling/Galbraith, the three most famous examples of women writing clearly as men are Mary Ann Evans who wrote as George Eliot, Karen Blixen who wrote as Isak Dinesen and French novelist Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin who wrote as George Sand, which is also less of a mouthful.

Many prefer to use initials as part of the pseudonym such as Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb, Erika Leonard writing as E.L. James, Susan Eloise Hinton writing as S.E. Hinton and Joanne Rowling writing as J.K. Rowling. Initials can be understood to be either male or female but the inference is that the author is male.

There are also many examples of female authors adopting a pen name that appears to be neither male or female. Anne Brontë wrote as Acton Bell. I’ve never known an Acton, male or female.  The same could be said for Charlotte Brontë who wrote as Currer Bell. Again the inference is that the author is a man.

The whole discussion about whether it’s better to be male or female when writing is moot when it comes to Rowling/Galbraith. Rowling, the literary world’s one true show-stopping superstar, could publish as Donald Duck and still sell books.

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