I wasn’t there, but I’ve heard that my parents were fairly quick in deciding on a name for me. It’s a good name, and I like it. Easy to spell, easy to pronounce, fairly neutral in sound, not too common and not too many neighboring consonants. It was not Harley, which was thrown around for a while, and so I have not had to suffer stripper or Batman or motorcycle jokes. It was not Applefart, which my father apparently suggested several times, and so I have not suffered crippling shame for my entire life, either. Rachel Vincent has served me well, but unfortunately it is taken.
I was in college when I first googled myself and learned the terrible truth: that someone in Oklahoma, someone who owns www.rachelvincent.com, someone with my same name was currently writing urban fantasy fiction about were-cat teenaged girls.
The only geography that matters much anymore is that of the internet, and on that front, she had me cornered. Like thousands of other Rachel Vincents across the world, she has my name — but more importantly, she has my domain name. And her website is an assault on my every sensibility. My name in terrible cobwebby/graffiti/vampire vomit font screams across the top of every page. Worse yet is that while I am a younger and perhaps more aspiring writer, she is a published one and therefore has called dibs on Rachel Vincent, on my aspirations and on me in nearly every way imaginable.
A well-meaning friend sent her an e-mail asking if she’d ever be willing to part with it so he could buy it for me for my birthday. She replied thanks, but no, she was attached to it. I continued to hate her and her books. My father reported seeing them in our neighborhood grocery store “on the shelves with all of the shitty Fabio books.”
Defeated and hearing more and more about the vital importance of “building your online brand” and “creating a meaningful internet footprint,” I spent weeks trying to find an appropriate pen name. It was unacceptable to imagine anyone ever googling me and thinking I had a terrible past as an Okie young adult urban fantasy writer.
I considered a few names: I had a great grandmother named Mahala and another named Marya, and both were appealing for a few seconds, but like an AIM screen name you make in seventh grade, I could imagine myself shivering in embarrassment at them in a few years. They were not me.
“Just use your middle name,” my mother said. “It’s beautiful, just use it.”
So I did, and ever since, I have been explaining to people who know me as Rachel that I am now Honor Vincent because there is a woman who is writing books about were-cats and she has stolen my name. This may be chipping away at my identity bit by bit, but at least I now have my own name with my own domain, and that’s all that really matters.