Category Archives: claire lyman

Dilemmas of a writer: pen names

I have a dilemma.

I’m soon to start entering short stories for competitions. I already have a writer’s blog, and a Facebook page. This is not because I am spending more time thinking about being published than I am about working on my novel. No. Because that would be disobeying the wisdom of Bradley Whitford:
Want to write more than you want to be a writer. Life is too challenging for external rewards to sustain us. The joy is in the journey.
And also because, I do actually love writing. I don’t always love it when I sit down. There are moments when I fling my pen down in frustration; sentences I start over and over again; things I just can’t work out how to describe so they come alive; characters who refuse to be distinctive; emotions that are hard to put into words.
But usually about thirty minutes in, sometimes a lot more, and sometimes never, there comes that moment: the writer’ high. It stays with me all day. Runners are probably best placed to understand what it is. It makes me want to continue writing, and it inspires me to come back again and again.
So mostly I think about writing. But at some point, I’m going to have to settle the issue of my pen name. (I’ve never been that happy with my own surname, not least because it’s difficult to spell correctly.) I currently have one that consists of my own first name and a borrowed surname. I’m happy with it. But recently I’ve been pondering using a different first name – something that might flow better. Something like Anna or Melissa. (Donna may be taking certain obsessions a little far.)
Here’s the thing, though. If people know me as, say, Amy Scott (which was my pen name in my teens, but I’m ditching that one, or at least for now), then Amy is the name that I’ll have to respond to, assuming there are things like interviews and book signings,, and that would feel odd, because I’m not used to doing that. I would feel a fraud. Just changing my surname wouldn’t do that; I’ve spent half my life imagining myself with different ones anyway. But somehow changing my first name feels like changing the essence of me, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.
Although, in a way, it’s no different from acting, is it? I can re-invent myself, slip into a new persona, which could be fun. Oddly, I would have no qualms whatsoever about replying to an email under a different name. But face to face? I don’t know.
Any writers out there? What do you do about this?

"Inevitable", by Claire Lyman – what’s it about?

What’s it about? I usually get asked when I apologise for my recent lack of social engagement with the excuse that “I’m writing a book, and I’m living eating sleeping breathing nothing else at the moment.” So, for those of you who’ve wondered…

Catherine is bored. It’s not that she doesn’t love her books and her West Wing DVD collection, and the passion and excitement they stir in her. But she’d like something to happen in her real life for a change.

In search of adventure, or at the very least some existential angst she can use to finally do some of that writing she’s always secretly wished she had the heartbreaking past to fuel, she moves back to her native Belgium.

Yes, Belgium. Things happen there too, you know, as she discovers when she begins teaching French to Brad, an American diplomat, who, looking as he does like Bradley Whitford circa 1999 and minus the disproportionately controversial moustache, is not hard to fall in love with.

All well and good, but Brad’s ambiguous friendship with the beautiful Lucy (think Janel Moloney), back home in the US, seems to be getting in the way of the perfect Pride and Prejudice ending she’d like for her autobiography.

If heartbreak is the price for adventure, is it worth it? Should she fight for Brad? Should she settle for his best friend, who just happens to be another attractive American? Or should she retreat back into the world of fiction, living vicariously and free from gut-wrenching pain?

Come with her and help her decide…

Delusions of Grandeur – on writing, part 3

I have this ridiculous recurring fantasy of what happens after my first novel, “Inevitable”, gets published to critical acclaim in both the UK and the US. Well, a girl can dream. After all, dreaming is what turns us into writers to start off with, isn’t it?

Of course, if I actually put this much effort into writing the thing, it’d be a best-seller by now. But anyway.

So, in this daydream, I’m being interviewed on a TV show, preferably by Parkinson, who has come out of retirement for the occasion, and definitely not by Jonathan Ross.

We spend some time discussing the novel, its themes, whether it is in any way autobiographical. (The main character is a French teacher in Brussels who falls for someone who looks a lot like a young Bradley Whitford, and is slightly obsessed with the West Wing, so no – it’s not autobiographical at all. Cough.)

Then he comes to the subject of my name:

“So, your name’s Claire Lyman. Are in you in any way related to Josh Lyman?”
“Well,” I weigh my answer carefully, “It would be kind of difficult to be related to him, since he’s, you know, fictional.”
“But Claire Lyman is a fictional name, isn’t it?”
“A pen name, yes.”
“So you could be related to him.”
“In my craziest moments I like to imagine myself to be his cousin.” (Laughter from the audience. Phew. I was hoping they wouldn’t think I actually imagined the West Wing to be, well, real.)
“Not his wife?” He plays along. “I would have thought most women would prefer to imagine themselves to be his wife.”
“Well, no, because he and Donna are living happily ever after. The ship’s kind of sailed on that one.” (It should be noted that I have, by the time my novel comes out, mastered the art of making people laugh with me, instead of at me as they used to. Kind of like Matthew Perry. Or maybe Brad Whitford. Yep, there’s a theme here. Sorry.)
“Okay. So you’ve met them before?”
“Erm… are we back in reality now?” I’m increasingly unsure. Even in my daydream this is becoming slightly surreal.
“If you like.”
“Well,” I explain very slowly, “they are fictional, so it would be difficult to meet them.”
“So you wouldn’t like to meet Mr Lyman and Ms Moss?”
“You’re joking,” I squeak. That’s it – he’s played me long enough. I can’t hold back my childlike enthusiasm one more second. “I’d absolutely love to.”
“That’s a relief, because they’d have been terribly disappointed if you hadn’t. They’ve flown a long way to be here.”

Bradley Whitford and Janel Moloney join me on the sofa.

I can’t wipe the grin off my face.

And of course, during the course of the interview, Brad agrees to write the screenplay with me, as well as star in the film (we’ll address the issue of how he is going to look 35 later…) and Janel, with that beautiful smile of hers, tells me she’d love the part that was written with her in mind.

I go out for dinner with them afterwards and we spend many happy hours discussing not only the best TV show in history, but plenty of other things it turns out we have in common. It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Well, two, really.

Look, I told you it was a ridiculous fantasy.

But, just in case, you read it here first.

And in the meantime, it is inspiring me no end.