Toni Morrison once lamented that her biggest regret as an author was not using her real name so her later father could recognize her success and feel proud.
My biggest regret is not letting my mom in more on my writing. My nature is so insulated that I often live inside my own head, locked down by my own assumptions--what my mom would and wouldn't understand.
In high school, I ran for student body president and lost--one student stopped me in the hall to flat out tell me to my face that she would not vote for me and laughed that I didn't win.
That day I came home feeling small, my mom asked about the student council elections. I remember feeling elated and surprised that she cared. I might have mentioned it in passing, but likely did not expand on my ambitions. I am peculiar, in the sense that my mindset is not always logical, but often very secretive and anxious. I don't reveal my ambitions to others, out of fear that if I fail to achieve my end goal, I'll disappoint them and embarrass myself. But my mom knew, and she comforted me. And I felt better for it.
Looking back, that should've been my wake up call not to keep her and others out of my mind--that she would support me no matter what--that she'd have my back, if no one else. I often lamented that I had no one, and to so some extent, relished in self-styling myself as a loner and recluse. I wish now that I had leaned on her more, let her in more when I had her. Now that it's too late, I watch other women holding their mothers' hands, taking cozy selfies with mom, and I feel shame that I didn't do more of this when she was alive. Now it's too late and I am all apologies and regrets. Even the Toronto Raptors, on the brink of victory in 2019. Her favorite team. I can't recall if I ever invited or suggested we attended a game together.
There was also that part of me that wanted to wait until I was successful to reveal everything to her and show her massive love.
What's this to do with a pen name? Back to ambitions. My fear of embarrassing myself, failing, and being judged. I wanted to use a nom-de-plume to protect my day life from my moonlighting (writing). I was afraid others would find out and laugh or dismiss me -- all of this was/is in my head, of course, a battle I am still fighting.
It's slowly that I am revealing my writing to family and friends. Nonetheless, for years I battled over what to call myself for my creative endeavors. Like Morrison, I'd prefer if my family saw my name and recognized me. But, I have two names. While my first is somewhat militant/rigid (many people disagree), my nickname (what family calls me) is rather nice. I have gotten used to both names over the years--grew to appreciate them.
I have discovered a solution. Though I consider myself a SFF writer, foremost, I still dabble in romance. For the latter, I'd like to be called Kebra (nickname). Even now, putting it out there feels weird. Still, if you go under "TALES" to "Romance", you will find that my self-published romance novels are now under this name. Meanwhile, I keep K.M. (first name and NN, though reversed) for all my SFF work.
So, what do you call me in real life? Either one. I answer to both!
I hope I have found peace at last with the name game.