First of all, I want to say I adored Uncle Lauran. I just had no idea…
Today, someone asked a question on social media about using multiple pen names, whether they should employ a different one for different genres they market their books in. My first reaction was; a name is the most important aspect of a writer and should sell the author selling the books no matter the genre. It’s hard to imagine using multiple pen names and struggling to brand each one for each genre. I have a hard enough time branding my one pen name. Of course, I’m self-published in the modern world. Back in my uncle’s day… sigh… oh to be a writer when people frequented libraries…
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s not a new question. Writers have used multiple pen names to flavor their stories and focus readers on the genre for ages.
Then, I had a “slap my forehead” moment when I realized one of the most amazing and prolific writers of the twentieth century who’d mastered this concept was my very own uncle, Lauran Paine, a man who like so many of us struggled to get published, found his niche and launched a career that resulted in over 1000 books! Yes that’s 3 zeros folks!
Here’s what People Magazine said about Uncle Lauran:
Uncle Lauran was in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most prolific living author for many years. That was the first thing I asked to look at when I went for a visit. I loved the Guinness books’ fun facts already, and to have an uncle’s accomplishments listed in a book that chronicled the tallest man ever, the shortest woman, and the largest living cat… well that was the best! I had no clue what it meant to have so many of your own books on the shelf. They covered a wall!
And the point of my musings today, he used over 70 pseudonyms! Both male and female, depending on the market.
I’m not sure why I haven’t given Uncle Lauran’s writing more thought since I’ve become a writer. My Dad inserts a story about him every time I talk about my writing (which makes for a lot of stories… hmmm…) and I love hearing them. But only today did it occur to me how amazing he was in his chosen profession, and I started remembering how he shared his experiences. I loved hearing them then. Today, as a writer, those conversations take on a whole new meaning.
Memories are funny things. I’m sure you’ve experienced that moment when one thought opens a floodgate. Uncle Lauran married my Aunt Mona in 1982. She was his favorite research librarian at the Siskiyou County Library. It was a late romance made in heaven. All the memories ran through my head today like a film reel. The holidays at the cozy A-Frame in the mountains. Uncle Lauran scaring off a huge bear who came to visit at the back porch one Thanksgiving. And his office full of his own books in the stone-lined basement built into the hill under the house.
So, I had to share. Because now that I’m a writer, and taking another look at his body of work, I’m floored. I would love the opportunity to go back in time and learn more about how he did it. He was a rock star! I appreciate so much better now what he accomplished by sitting down and writing every day with a set schedule.
Books were his bread and butter. He wrote full time from 1948 (though he started writing in 1934) until right before he died in 2001. He always talked about having a formula. If you master the formula, you can write anything on a steady basis. Mr. Friedman of People Magazine captured the formula best in Uncle Lauran’s interview.
Keep in mind, he was a true cowboy from a much earlier time…
Uncle Lauran really said that about the formula! He said it to me numerous times to convince me I could write. I guess I did have asperations back in those days. Hmmm.
U.K. Writer Ben Bridges does a beautiful job of highlighting Uncle Lauran’s career. You can find his article here. I love what he has to say about the pen names:
Mr. Bridges, also published by Robert Hale, has an impressive body of work himself under his own variety of pen names. I discovered another author I need to study and read!
My favorite part of Uncle Lauran’s story was how long it took him to find his niche, which didn’t happen until he got advice from his publisher to write what he knows. He was a cowboy, a stuntman, he owned cattle. He said he had the scars to prove it. He wrote what he knew and he gave his readers tons of it. He used to tell us some of his Hollywood stories about the times he hung out on the lot of the Lone Ranger. He was friends with Jay Silverheels, who was the legendary Tonto. That’s just a sample.
Two movies were made from Uncle Lauran’s stories, 1957’s The Quiet Gun inspired by Lawman, and 2003’s Open Range based on The Open Range Men, produced by Kevin Costner and starring Kevin Costner, Robert Duval, Annette Benning, Michael Gambon, and Michael Jeter. It’s an amazing movie, and does justice to the original story. My Aunt managed Uncle Lauran’s works after his passing in conjunction with Lauran Paine, Jr., and worked very hard with Mr. Costner to transform her husband’s story to the big screen. She got to attend the premier.
Uncle Lauran didn’t just crank out serial fiction. He created an impressive wide-ranging body of nonfiction. He brought this book to my Dad’s one visit, and I stayed up all night reading it. It’s fun to find these out of print books for sale from interesting booksellers. This one is listed by Common Crow Used & Rare Books.
Though I didn’t get to thank Uncle Lauran for planting those seeds to tell a story back when I was in my twenties, I hope he enjoyed my fascination with all that he was and accomplished, nevertheless.