The Name Game

Written by Danica Cornell

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but over the last several months, I’ve noticed a certain level of confusion when it comes to how folks should address me.

Yes, you read my opening sentence correctly.

This all came about because I decided to utilize a pen name.  In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago when a friend and colleague emailed, “Should I call you, Donna, (my real name) or, Danica, (my pen name)?  What about just, D?”

It’s interesting to note, the only people who struggle with this issue are my writer friends.  I mean, let’s face it—most folks don’t take the time to read an author’s bio page, right?  That means the vast majority of people have no earthly idea that, Danica Cornell, is my pseudonym.   Of course, those who’ve known me since way-back-when just call me by my real name.  That leaves those writers with whom I’ve developed a friendship to wonder, “What do I call her?”

While all of this may seem insignificant and perhaps even a bit comical, it got me thinking about how much of our identities are wrapped up in our names.  Whether we’re talking about birth names, married names, professional names, or product names, these labels tend to become a big part of our identity—which, as you might imagine, is actually serious business for novelists.  Needless to say, the significance of branding is precisely why I put so much thought into selecting both a pseudonym and a book series name.

Following the K.I.S.S. rule

For those of you unfamiliar with K.I.S.S., it stands for Keep It Simple Sweetie.  Of course as fate would have it, my real name is, Donna Manobianco, which is anything BUT simple!  Fortunately, I went into the writing business armed with a background in psychology and marketing, which means, I understood right from the get-go that most folks don’t like to think too hard when it comes to remembering the names of people or brands.  In other words, I knew I needed to make things as easy as possible for my readers!

What’s in a name?

For my pen name, I selected, Danica, which originates all the way back to Slavic mythology.  In fact, it was before the Eastern European Slavs were introduced to Christianity that they prayed to a deity known as Danica—the first star they saw in the morning sky.  This “morning star” was thought to be the sun’s little sister.  Since one of the themes in my writing has to do with good vs. evil/light vs. dark, adopting the name, Danica, as the author of the DARK STAR Series seemed like a no-brainer!  As for the surname, Cornell, this is a nod to my husband’s alma mater, Cornell University, which just so happens to be located in New York, where we currently reside.  Plus it’s easy to spell and remember—an important consideration indeed!

As for DARK STAR, I originally thought about naming the series after my protagonist, Dr. Rachel Cohen.  However, after reflecting on this, I realized other series, (i.e., Batman, Spider Man, etc.) use the names of their superheroes for branding.  Additionally, I figured DARK STAR would likely be easier for fans of science fiction and fantasy to recall than, Rachel Cohen ever would be.

With all of this in mind, I consider my top branding priority to be with my DARK STAR series followed by my pen name, Danica Cornell.  Notice how, I didn’t mention, Donna, at all?  So, for all of my pals who feel funny addressing me as, Danica, in the public domain, don’t fret.  You’re actually helping me reinforce my brand!

Until next time…

Happy writing,




Danica Cornell

Danica Cornell is the author of the forthcoming DARK STAR Sci-fi/Fantasy Series, soon to be published by Cool Geek Books. To learn more about Danica’s work, her love of dogs, and her support of UNICEF, please visit her website at



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24 thoughts on “The Name Game

  1. I very much enjoy your writing, Danica/Donna – whoever you are 😉 Though, I do prefer Danica for some reason. It seems a little more exotic maybe 🙂 You are such an incredible writer, I don’t really think it would matter much WHAT name you go by LOL. Though, I don’t like “unlearning” things so I will still with Danica. Great post!

  2. Great to hear, and it was extremely interesting, how the pen name came about!! I always feel a bit strange when I call you Danica but it comes naturally to call you that when we talk online as to reinforce your brand for any readers watching. But I do prefer calling you by your real name – it is extremely sweet 🙂

    • Hi Fros! Yeah, I decided it was probably time to explain all of this, as I was sensing some confusion out there regarding Danica vs. Donna. At least some folks now know how I came to select the name, “Danica Cornell”. Of course deciding on a pen name is only one tiny piece of my writing journey–one that seems long ago and far away at this point. Thanks for your comments, sweetie! xoxo 🙂

  3. Thanks for the clarification! 😀

    it gets even worse, as once we know you we start making up our own names… Dani! As for Donna Manobianco, I like it. It could be a great name for an author of mysteries!

    • LOL!!! Nicholas, you have me rolling on the floor with laughter over here!!! Mysteries, huh? Well, life is a bit of a mystery to me, so maybe you’re onto something here!! Your pal, “Dani” xoxo 🙂

  4. Danica I think all of your names are great. The Danica Cornell name has a fast pace to it (may be from the racecar Danica) and the Donna Manobianco name brings up thoughts of exotic backgrounds and mystery. I only know you as Danica and so that is where I’ll be. Good post. My wife thought I should put my middle name out there like J. Williams Howell. I settled for John W. Howell since it is easier to endorse checks and introduce myself.

    • John, middle names are funny. I thought that being a Greek author with a PhD clarified things for me, until some friends emailed me to congratulate me on my articles online. Since I had not posted something, I visited the page to realize there was another Dr. Nicholas Rossis, who has a PhD in Islamic Studies (mine is in Architecture). The good thing is that we met up with my namesake and he’s a great chap (can you imagine my horror if he were a jerk?) 🙂

      Anyway, I started using the initial to my middle name (Chris, or Christos in Greek) after that…

    • Very interesting feedback, John! I hadn’t considered the fast-paced aspect to the name Danica, but it does make sense! By the way, I love your comments on endorsing checks!! Danica Cornell is definitely “faster” to write than my real name. By the way, your name sounds like that of an author, so good choice!!! 🙂

  5. Danica I’m glad you explained that name thing because in the beginning I was a bit confused by the two. But I decided to stick with Danica no matter what and that kept me sane. That’s just why I gave up my pen name…I couldn’t keep up with it myself so how could anybody else? Thanks for clearing it all up.

    • LOL, Shirley! Thanks for your comments, and I’m sorry for the confusion, sweetie. I thought about NOT using a pen name, but with my last name, I decided I’d better go ahead and bite the bullet. xoxo 🙂

  6. I love the details and history behind the name. It’s like a special pass to glimpse secrets. I went with a shorter version of my name for a pen name, but only because Cas was ambiguous and that’s a subtle theme I want to address in my stories. Good thinking on the Dark Star. I definitely remember that more than Rachel (I’d have to scroll back up to check her last name).

    • Hi Cas, thank you so much for your comments! 🙂 Very interesting to hear how you went about selecting your pen name as well! Ambiguity can be very good when it comes to a writer’s name – less chance for gender bias. As for Dark Star, it took me awhile to figure that out. Sometimes it’s the obvious things that trip me up the most. LOL! xoxo 🙂

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