I woke up one morning and said, “You know what? I’m fed up with Jane. I think I’ll be some one else. How about Mary?”
So I pondered on Mary for a few days until I realised that, apart from being disyllabic, it was just as bad as Jane. It was too plain, for want of a better word.
Then a couple of mornings later I woke up and said, “Annabel. It’s got to be Annabel. And how about tacking Austen on the end for good measure?”
I’ve always admired Jane Austen, but her name had already been taken (by Jane Austen, funnily enough), and, in any case, being another Jane Austen wouldn’t have got rid of the initial Jane problem.
My parents favoured monosyllabic names. There are three of us, and we all have names of just one syllable. So, when my own daughter was born, I decided to go in for something more adventurous and called her Susanna, and, would you believe, my mother phoned me when I was still in hospital to tell me that she disapproved of the name and couldn’t think why I’d chosen it. I got to the bottom of this, however, when I discovered that my father kept calling Susanna “Samantha”. He’d got the S and the A right, but was clearly having problems with what came between. Perhaps that’s why they stuck with the monosyllabic theme – we all had names they’d remember.
There’s a trend these days to enhance my name by adding a “y”, but I don’t even have this luxury, and, besides, not even that would eradicate the basic problem. Even with a “y”, it would still sound the same.
I was pleased with my Annabel Austen invention. It was the only glamour I was going to have, it was an act of rebellion, and, I thought, it had a certain ring to it, so that even if my parents had problems remembering its complexity, most people wouldn’t. Even so, I took the precaution of Googling it to make sure that there was nothing untoward. Of course there were other people with the same name – hardly any of us has exclusive rights to our names, and I certainly don’t with my real name – but there was nothing to frighten the horses.
So I went ahead and published my first book under “Annabel Austen”. Nothing unusual about that: plenty of writers have a pseudonym and for all sorts of reasons.
It was probably around this time last year that I realised there was a slight problem. I received a message from some one who had been informed by an “Annabel Austen” that they had won a prize.
And then more messages in the same vein kept coming. I have replied to all of them explaining that this really isn’t me; there must be some one else with the same name.
I now realise that there is a Facebook scam organised by some one who purports to be Annabel Austen. I wonder if this person also did a Google search and thought, “Ha-ha! There’s a poor innocent housewife living in London. I’ll let her take the flak when people find out the truth!”
There was a bit of a lull for a while, but now the other Annabel Austen appears to be in action with renewed vigour and I’ve been receiving more messages than usual. I understand and sympathise with the frustration of the people affected, but I wish they would understand that I’m telling the truth when I say it’s not me and there’s nothing I can do to help. It reminds me of an experience my husband had many years ago: a lady phoned him one afternoon in the mistaken belief that he was Lambeth Council. He explained politely that she had called the wrong number and put the phone down. The lady didn’t believe him and phoned again, this time hurling all manner of abuse because my husband refused to acknowledge that he was Lambeth Council. All I can say is that this type of behaviour will not change things: being abusive won’t make me the Annabel Austen of the Facebook scam just as it didn’t turn my husband into Lambeth Council!