image by David Lasky

image by David Lasky

Even before my first book came out, people were already asking about my second book, and the questions haven’t stopped. Which is pretty great — far better for people to be interested than not! But I haven’t been able to give a good answer.

I’m working on it.

The research is taking a while…

I’ll be sure to let you know.

But there were delays and setbacks, and an extended pause for baby-having, and then when the book was ready to sell we took a left turn with it, and so now the answer is both more and less clear.

My second book is coming out within the next year, but I really can’t tell you much about it. At least not in this forum. It won’t have my name on it. Instead, it’s being released under a pseudonym, and this feels both tremendously odd and totally like the right choice.

My first book, The Kitchen Daughter, is set in contemporary Philadelphia and narrated by a cooking-obsessed young woman with Asperger’s whose parents have just died. My second book is completely different — set more than 100 years in the past, with a bold and shifty narrator, zinging with action and plot and unexpected twists. So my agent and I made the decision to offer it to publishers under a pseudonym, reaching out for a different readership (and reserving the option to make the “second Jael McHenry book” more like the first, for continuity’s sake.)

As I said, I think it’s the right choice, and I’m thrilled. It’s another debut, where I can use what I learned from the first debut, but starting with an external clean slate.

It just feels…

kind of weird.

Particularly at in-person events. I was among the 750+ authors signing at BookExpo America last week, under my other name. I wore a name tag with Other Name on it. I got to see stacks and stacks of advance copies of my book… with Other Name on the cover. I thought of myself as Other Name, promoting Other Name’s book.

And now it’s feeling less weird by the minute.

But it’s still hard to figure out exactly what to do. Who do I tell, and when? Close friends and family know the truth, of course, but there are lots of other people to think about. Do I reach out to booksellers who loved the first book and tell them about the second? Book bloggers? Interviewers? Other author friends?

I’m building a new social media presence from scratch, and as far as things go online, Jael McHenry and Other Name are remaining completely separate. There will always be the chance to connect the two later, if I choose to. Right now, I kind of like the mystery.

Would you ever publish under a pseudonym? Why or why not? Do you think you could keep your selves separate?


About Jael McHenry

Jael McHenry is the debut author of The Kitchen Daughter (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books, April 12, 2011). Her work has appeared in publications such as the North American Review, Indiana Review, and the Graduate Review at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. You can read more about Jael and her book at or follow her on Twitter at @jaelmchenry.