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Why one writer decided to change her pen name: by Catherine Isaac

May 23, 2018

Words  || Catherine Isaac

After a decade of writing romantic comedy as Jane Costello, I’d become used to answering to that name.

But when I had the idea for ‘You Me Everything’, it was so different from my nine previous books that I had two choices: Dismiss the most compelling story I’d ever thought of because it couldn’t be categorised in the same way as ‘Bridesmaids’, ‘The Time Of Our Lives’ or my other novels.

Or I just write it and worry about that later. I didn’t really have a choice in the end. The story burned in me, its characters and setting kept me awake at night as they grew richer and more vivid.

The novel begins when single mother Jess takes her ten-year-old son to the Dordogne in France to rekindle his relationship with his father, her ex. Despite the glorious setting, it’s the last thing she wants to do, but has been driven to fulfil the dying wish of her mother, Susan, who is living with the late stages of Huntington’s disease.

I’ve come to think of ‘You Me Everything’ as a love story in the widest definition of the term. It’s about love at its worst and best, but most of all, it’s about finding every bit of joy in life, no matter what is thrown at you.

It felt like a risk to write something so different from the books for which I was known. But when my agent read my first draft she was determined, not just that I’d pulled it off, but also that it was so much bigger and more ambitious than anything I’d ever written that it had to be published under a different name. So Catherine Isaac was born.

I found coming up with a new name for myself trickier than you might think. It’s different from choosing a baby name (not least because I’m the wrong side of 40). It’s also not just about finding a name you like – I’d have been a Chloe or an Isabelle if it were. It’s got to suit you, to feel right and, ideally, actually mean something. So I opted for Catherine, which is my middle name, and Isaac, the name of one of my three sons. The other two were slightly put out at first, but they’re now over it!

At first, when people addressed me as Catherine at book events I’d look over my shoulder wondering who they were talking to. My new signature took some practice too. I don’t mind admitting that some of the first books I signed looked a bit of a mess.

But, for me the risk has already paid off. Writing my first Catherine Isaac novel was more challenging and fulfilling than anything I’d ever attempted and it has opened up opportunities that I’d only dreamed about before. Such as being edited in the USA by Pamela Dorman, who published Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and The Secret Life of Bees. Or being translated into more than 20 languages. And, most excitingly of all, being optioned for a film by Temple Hill and Lionsgate, the team who brought The Fault in Our Stars and Twilight to the big screen.

More important than all that has been the response from readers. It’s fascinated me how everyone seems to take something different from the novel. Some describe it as ‘feel good’. Others say it’s ‘heart-breaking’. As contradictory as this might sound, my hope is that it’s both.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing my rom coms and enjoyed a terrific career as Jane Costello doing so. But for now, I love the idea that old readers and new are discovering my new work as Catherine Isaac, and a book that is already very special to me.

About the author

Catherine Isaac was born in 1974 in Liverpool, England. She studied History at the University of Liverpool, before completing a postgraduate diploma in Journalism at Glasgow Caledonian University. She began her career as graduate trainee at the Liverpool Echo.

At 27, she was appointed Editor of the Liverpool Daily Post and held the position for five years. She wrote her first book, Bridesmaids, while on maternity leave and under the pseudonym Jane Costello.

She has since written nine books, all Sunday Times bestsellers in the UK. You, Me, Everything is her first novel writing as Catherine Isaac. She lives in Liverpool with her husband Mark and three sons. In her spare time she likes to run, walk up mountains in the Lake District and win at pub quizzes, though the latter rarely happens. Film rights to this novel have been optioned by Lionsgate, and foreign rights have sold around the world.

Read our full review of You Me Everything || purchase a copy here



  1. Caz Greene

    I loved your books written as Jane Costello and look forward to this one too, I wholeheartedly agree with the decision to write under a new pen name for a different style of novel – particularly from a book sellers perspective. It is not easy to explain to a customer that you will find a certain author in sci-fi, general fiction AND crime or even erotic fiction as they may only like one of those genres and be upset if they take home a book by a preferred author only to find it is not what they expected. Yes some people can expand their reading this way but for others they are not ready and can be turned off.
    Three well known examples for me are actually authors I really admire for their versatility and seemingly never-ending treasure trove of plots, genres and characters but very hard to explain to customers their different series etc. Nora Roberts of course who is prolific in light romance and generally pens her crime novels under JD Robb but unfortunately also writes crime under Nora Roberts which confuses in-experienced shelvers and new readers. Gena Showalter writes young adult, paranormal and erotic fiction all under the same name – I enjoy all those genres but try explaining to the parent of a 13 year old that yes the young adult dystopian series is perfectly fine but try and hold back on them reading the others if you can!
    The hugely popular newcomer Sarah J Maas got a huge following from the moment her book Throne of Glass hit the shelves (yound adult fantasy) – but her second series also written under the same name contains graphic sex that leads to complaints from parents and school libraries who purchased the books for younger teens expecting them to be as exciting but tame as the first series.
    It is okay if an author writes under the same name for different age levels if it is not exploring sexual or violence content inappropriate for younger ones. Australian writers Kate Forsyth, Andrew Daddo, Jackie French, Tristan Bancks, Emily Rodda and of course the hilarious Andy Griffiths have all managed to retain cult like followings as their audience grows in age as well as size without writing under other names or accidentally exposing young ones to inappropriate imagery.
    Good luck with the new book, I look forward to it very much.

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