A rose is a rose is a rose...
...unless that rose is a writer, in which case the name does matter. (If you are wondering what the heck I am talking about... the title quote is from Gertrude Stein who was commenting on Shakespeare's famous line "A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.")
Whether it be that your name is boring (who wants to read a thriller by Jane Smith?), deemed less than acceptable to your genre (most women don't want to read a romance by Bob Brady, and a lot of people won't read sci-fi by Charlotte Willowsby), or you really would rather not have all your fans able to find your address, phone nubmer, and a myriad of other personal details at the click of an icon, lots of writers have found it useful to take a psuedonym.
I decided a long time ago to write under my own name (most journalists do, and at that time I was publishing only as a journalist). Then, after I started writing fiction, I decided to add the K, because I found out that there were a lot of Pamela Taylors out there, and a few had even written books, and I wanted people to be able to find me and my books easily.
Then when I started publishing commentary and fiction, my editors started asking me to clarify that I was a Muslim! I thought the content of the writing made it pretty clear (and I still think the content of it makes it pretty clear) but they wanted to hit the readers over the head with the fact. In the commentary, they wanted a mention of my religious affiliation in the first paragraph, and for the fiction they wanted something to make it clear in my by-line.
Which got me to thinking maybe I should take a Muslim middle name and publish under three names. I even blogged on it here, and about how I couldn't find any name that really fit. Of course, not a lot of writers use three names, but I'm not willing to give up Pamela. I'm particularly fond of Pamela as I have all my life had to fight for the last two syllables, thus developing an agressive loyalty to it. Plus, I've got at least a little name recognition as Pamela K. Taylor.
Well, I think I've got the name I was looking for... Kenza. A friend on the Islamic Writers Alliance list suggested it, and I think it's perfect.
Khatiba, which means writer in Arabic, had been my prior choice, but I just didn't like the way Pamela Khatiba Taylor tripped off the tongue (or rather, tangled the tongue up in knots on its way past the uvula...). Plus the "kh" is a problem as there's no corresponding sound in English -- the same problem that folks run into with Hannukah and Challah... both of which, like Khatiba, require a kind of flat hissing sound made between a raised tongue and the soft palate.
I thought about my husband's last name, Khalid. That would be a very logical choice, but it also didn't sound great. Pamela Khalid Taylor, had the same problem with that danged "kh," and I had resisted taking his name for so long as it isn't part of Islamic tradition. (Islamically you remain who you are, with your familial ties intact, not becoming part of your husband's property or his family's property when you marry, as switching names would imply.)
Khadijah, yuck, never did like the sound of that one. Karima, didn't sound great either. Pamela Karima -- two three-syllable words in a row just doesn't cut it. Plus the short e next to the long e is jarring. Amazingly, I couldn't find any female Muslim names starting with a K (and I wanted to keep the K, since my readers have seen me with Pamela K. Taylor for five + years now) that had two syllables.
But Pamela Kenza Taylor. That sounds cool to my ears. Two short e's and two shwas. Three-two-two on the syllables, a flowing rhythm, my beloved Pamela and my cherished K. And it's a Muslim name, although I had never heard of it until this afternoon. It means treasure in Arabic. For those who don't know that, as I didn't, it still has a foreign ring... African? Japanese? what is it? When they read my stories and (eventual) books, hopefully they'll say, oh, Muslim! At the same time, I hope a few people might pick it up thinking I'm African-American or Japanese American. Anything to expand the audience a bit!
I suppose if the editors object to three names I could even shorten it to P. Kenza Taylor and publicize hard to my current readers that that's what I'm publishing under. But still, I prefer them all together. A more accurate depiction of who I am.