When we got married, Becky took my last name. It was a long negotiation, and I leveraged every ounce of male privilege to have it this way. I won’t repeat my various arguments here, but suffice it to say that despite being happy with the result, it’s not something I’m proud of. I took advantage of having tradition on my side, even though that tradition really has nothing but inertia going for it. So when I decided I wanted a pseudonym for my writing career, I felt I had the perfect opportunity to repay the debt I owed her. She took my last name for life in general; I’ll take hers for my artistic career, the dearest part of my identity. It feels right.
Why N.S., though? Why not Noah Saul Dolkart? There are a couple of reasons behind that too. First off, the initials draw more attention to the last name, which is a plus. I have no interest in hiding my actual identity, but the name on the cover is what everyone remembers, and that’s for the best. I mean, who remembers Lemony Snicket’s real name without having to google him? It’s not like he’s hiding who he is either, but “Lemony Snicket” is easy and memorable and fun.
There is also an old (and at this point hopefully obsolete) tradition of women writers hiding their gender identity behind initials. Again, I’m not hiding my identity, but it’s a tradition I like evoking as I take my wife’s name for my own.