Monday, June 24, 2013

What's in a Name?

When Jeff was writing his introduction of me last week, he asked if I minded his telling you my real name—Patricia King. I said I did not. I decided to use a pseudonym for my fiction, not because I want to hide from the public, but because I want to distinguish myself from all the other Patricia Kings of which there are thousands.

The latest searchable census data, from 1990, gives the following statistics for the US:

  • Number of people named Patricia, the second most popular female name: 1,628,911
  • Number of people with the last name King, the 30th most popular last name: 475,530
  • Number of people named Patricia King: 2,975

 If you search “Patricia King” with Google you get 59,800,000 hits in .2 seconds.  You will not find me on any of the first 60 million or so.

Patricia King on the cover of
her last nonfiction book:
Monster Boss
I had written my nonfiction books under my real name, which made sense since they were all connected with my consulting practice. Other nonfiction writers were publishing as Patricia King: a sociologist, an expert in dollhouses, and most notably toward the end of my nonfiction career, a televangelist and entrepreneur who has published sixteen books.  More than one person, upon meeting me actually told me that they had googled me and thought I was she.

Patricia King, the televangelist and entrepreneur

When I finally broke through into as a published novelist, I wanted a name that would distinguish me from the other 2,974 women who carried my name, especially the authors.

Truth be told, I also wanted a name that would get me www-dot-fill-in-the-blank-dot-com.

My first thought was to name myself after my female forbears.  It would connect my name with my heritage for one thing.  And, to me, their names were mellifluous and much more romantic than the rather business-like and prosaic Patricia King.  So I chose my mother’s first name—Annamaria and her mother’s maiden name—Alfieri.  I wanted to honor those women, who never had my opportunities.  My mother never got to graduate from high school.  Both my grandmothers were illiterate.  I think it is amazing and wonderful that, under the circumstances, I got to be an author.

My mother: Annamaria Pisacane Puglise

On the left: Sabina Maria Alfieri Pisacane

The Original Annamaria Alfieri with her husband,Francesco

After my first novel was published using her name, I found out that my great grandmother was called the same—Annamaria Alfieri.  This makes 
sense since the tradition among many Italians is to name their children after the grandparents.  My mother, like many Italian second daughters, carried her mother’s mother’s first name.

I have only two memories of the real Annamaria Alfieri.  In the first, I am only around three and sitting on her lap; she is calling me “tesoro,” Italian for “treasure,” used as we would say “darling.”  The other is being five and standing at the foot of her bed, not really being able to see her nor understanding that she lay dying.  She was 95.  I would like to believe she knows I took her name.

By the way, Annamaria’s/my third South American historical mystery launches tomorrow.  Blood Tango takes place against the most tumultuous week in Argentine history, Buenos Aires 1945.  It imagines the murder of an Evita lookalike.  You can read all about it and get a sample chapter at

Annamaria Alfieri - Monday


  1. I've been waiting forever to say this,'A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to use it, my love. I just hope no one got to steal it during all the time it took me to find the perfect moment.


    1. Joining this tribe is the perfect moment for me, Jeff. SWEET is the word to describe it.

  2. A wonderful story. It makes the choice our "Michael Stanley" seem very pedestrian! Good luck with the book; I'm looking forward to it!

    1. Thanks, Michael. You and Stan have such perfect names to combine, and at least you don't need ten paragraphs to explain yourself. I LOVED Deadly Harvest. I actually loved all of Kubu, but DH is the BEST. BTW, it's hotter in NYC today than it is in Florida--where I think you now are.

  3. Oh, sure, Jeff, just jump right in with the OBVIOUS comment. (And beating all of the rest of us to it, damn you!)

    Congratulations on Blood Tango, Annamaria/Patricia/TheRose! I hope it carries you to new heights!!!

    1. Everett, please notice that I took the high road with Jeff. As the new kid on the block, I figure my gloves should be kid, for a while. But I will soon be kidding Jeff too, with the best of 'em. Which is you.

  4. I want to thank you Everett for winding up Annamaria. It's just what I needed to feel the love.

    1. Fear not, Jeff. No doubt I will be handing you straight lines for a long time to come.

  5. Oh, my God, what a smile your mother has in that picture. And you chose the most euphonious name I can imagine.

    Also, I personally know three Patricia Kings, and I'm not sure I could have handled the confusion.

    1. Yes, Tim, that smile! A real estate agent who saw that picture in my house once insisted that my mother must have be related to Barbara Stanwyck.
      I, too, know three other Patricia Kings. I once had a breakfast appointment with one of them. When I called at the University Club to meet her, the desk clerk asked my name and who I was there to see. There ensued a conversation worthy of Abbott and Costello.

  6. I love your post and your author name. The pictures of your family are wonderful; I love the times they evoke. I will check out your book. I will not attempt to spar with anyone, I would lose-she said laughing.

  7. Thank you, lil! The evocation of times past is what I love spending my time doing. It beats trying to figure out the present. It also gives one hope that, though chaos has reined before, we are still here.