Saturday, 21 November 2015

Learning to live with a split personality!

Since getting married last year I find I am constantly juggling two names.   

I have been called Vivien Hampshire for a very long time, and certainly for my whole writing life. Although I’m far from famous, I am known by that name, both in women’s magazine fiction and pre-school magazine circles, and I’m reluctant to change it. Yet, in my personal life, it’s expected that I take my new husband’s name and become Vivien Brown, and I am more than happy to do that, despite the hassle it causes. Passport, driving licence, household bills, bank accounts, library card, doctor and dentist records, you name it… they all have to be changed.

So, because there are two very distinct and separate areas of my life, each pleading a strong case for the use of one of my two names, I have decided there is only one answer. I will live with both names side by side - not just during the immediate change-over period, but forever!

But how do I manage that without tying myself up in knots and confusing everybody else? If you are about to get married, especially you writer ladies out there, believe me, there is a LOT to think about…

Firstly, I have no real choice but to continue to write as Vivien Hampshire. Using my new married name would have felt like starting all over again, with regular readers not recognising the new name at all. When it comes to those professional childcare and early education staff who read my articles about working with young children, it would also worry me that they’d have no faith in an apparent new writer and I would lose all the benefits (a wealth of knowledge, experience and credibility) that I have built up behind the old one.

So, I have opened a new facebook ‘author’ page where I will forever be Vivien Hampshire (Author) - it’s very easy to do – and that’s where my readers and writing friends will be able to find me and where I will talk only about my books, stories, and other writerly stuff. You can take a look at it here . This blog will also continue under the name of Vivien Hampshire, as will my Amazon author page – to ensure it matches the name on my books – and my membership of writing organisations like the SWWJ and RNA. As for twitter, I am Vivien Hampshire there too, and intend to stay that way, as most of my tweets are of the writerly kind.

For my general daily chat, friends and family, likes and shares, photos of my cats and granddaughter, etc. I am retaining my personal facebook page, where I have already made the switch to calling myself Viv Brown – with the old name retained on my profile page in brackets for those who are either curious or confused!

Email: Well, what can I say? The thought of the number of people I would have to tell if I changed my email address scares the hell out of me. And plenty of people use obscure email addresses that don’t include their name at all, so in that area Vivien Hampshire it is, and will (probably always) remain, no matter who I am communicating with.

As for the important finances… I’ve changed my name at the bank, but I’ve also kept just one small rarely-used savings account open at another bank in the old name, so I have somewhere to pay in the odd stray cheque that sneaks through the net bearing the Hampshire name. I was amazed at how soon my regular bank started refusing to accept cheques in that name, even though their records must show that I’ve been called by it for well over 30 years!

Of course, when magazines or publishers pay me fees or royalties, they need to know my ‘official’ name too – the one that matches my bank details, but they are more than happy to publish me under the old name, so I suppose Vivien Hampshire has now become my ‘pen name’. Lots of writers use pen names; it’s just that mine is my ‘ex-name’ and not a made-up glamorous one as many others are! Of course, I’ve had to tell PLR, ALCS, and DACS of the name change too, but they all have facilities within their systems to cope with authors' pen names (multiple ones if necessary). And when it comes to the tax man, he now knows me as Vivien Brown, with a ‘trading name’ of Vivien Hampshire. Simple!

Then there’s ID. I still haven’t changed my name on my passport, mainly because it costs a fortune to do it, so I’m waiting for it to expire, when I will have to buy a new one anyway. It makes holidays interesting, as I’m sure the hotels we stay in abroad must assume we are not married – not that they care these days. Just remind me not to book a double room in Dubai until it’s been sorted! But I have changed my name on my driving licence (to ensure it matches the name on my car registration documents and insurance), so by producing either the passport or the driving licence, both of which carry a photo, I can still legitimately prove my identity under either name, at least for now. And the marriage certificate comes in very handy sometimes to prove both who I was and who I now am – like when selling my house, which was bought when I was a Hampshire but is now being sold as a Brown. Oh, boy, isn’t it complicated?

And so all I have to master now is learning to sign my new signature without thinking about it, and without having to stop mid-flow and apologise that I’ve started to sign the old one. It still happens occasionally, after more than a year.

And, of course, most importantly, I have to remember which of my two personalities I am supposed to be at any given time - depending on where I am and who I’m talking to! So, on that note, it’s Goodbye for now – from both of us!