why I took the curious pen name I have

Since that Time magazine cover many fans have written to ask me why I took the pen name Ashley Pond V.

Like so many movie stars, I was cursed with a strange birth name. My real name is fully: Vivian MacAlpin Five VI. On my birth certificate there is no VI and the two typing mistakes are corrected crudely. I believe the hospital clerk had no sense of humor. Perhaps my father forgot to bring his certificate to prove I deserved a VI.

My family is of Scottish lineage. Vivian is a man’s name in Scotland and as you can see, it has been in my family for too long. Five is—obviously a corruption—from the Pictish name Fibe. The VI is the fault of my great-great-great-grandfather’s mother and the men in between. He was born in the Hebrides, in 1723, moved to Aberdeen, and was, among other things, a whiskey distiller and a failed inventor. I’ve read enough family letters to be sure that the first had some influence on the second. He had sixteen children by the same woman. I wish I could ask her some questions about that.

I took the name Ashley because it was first in the alphabet, mysterious, and it seemed very masculine to me. I was tired of receiving correspondence that began with “Ms.” because people assume Vivian is a woman’s name. You would think these individuals would realize that women don’t hand down names long enough to get a VI behind it. Even Mary Shelley didn’t get a II or a Junior.

The choice of Ashley was a mistake. I am told that Ashley is the single most popular name for baby girls in America and has been for years. I visited Disneyland recently and found this to be accurate. I still receive correspondence that begins with “Ms.”

I also felt certain that no one could possibly believe I was the VI of a line. I have met many IIIs and two IIIIs but never another VI. I like the idea of a family line, however, so I retained a numeral. I thought the V was just within the realm of believability and it also makes the people who proudly display their IIs and IIIs look a little silly, I feel. It’s also a good joke. My real name is Five so V.

The name Pond was chosen for its simplicity and its nearness to my favorite poet, Pound. It’s also the name of the editor of my favorite erotic literary journal, Yellow Silk (her parents have a sense of humor; her first name is Lily). This second choice was also a mistake. I have discovered that it is not Scottish as I had believed but English. I dislike the English but my first novel had already been reviewed by the Times so I was stuck. I was shooting for something less ridiculous than Vivian Five VI. I think my success was quite minor.

If I can make a recommendation to young writers with odd names who are considering adopting pen names: choose an ethnic sounding name. Many presses are currently publishing nothing but ethnic writers no matter how crappy.

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