The bookshelves reel. Amazon totters. Two authors, both named Maureen O’Brien (and neither one me, more’s the pity) are out there writing under the same name! Noooooo!
One is the famous (but no more famous than convenient) and glamorous Maureen O’Brien, star of stage and screen, and longtime companion of Doctor Who. She owned a bookstore on Vancouver Island and, for the last ten or so years, has written mystery novels. (Dark, but well-written and interesting.) More recently, she has returned to the UK theatre to work as an actor, director, and playwright. Finally, she won an award for her audiobook reading of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. (If there be a more perfect resume, it can only include non-fictional space travel and medals for valor.)
The other, of whom I’d never heard before despite a good bit of autonomen Googling, has been slaving away in the literary and educational salt mines for the last 29 years. Her fiction is contemporary literary stuff — but I don’t detect any of the telltales of crappiness. (Other than teaching creative writing for a living, which has been the death of American literature. Fortunately for her, she has only been an adjunct prof who still has to sing for her supper — and thus still can.) Her latest book came out this spring. You can read a review and an excerpt at BookLoons.
As a Maureen, it’s tempting to think that your name is so uncommon that you don’t need a middle initial. I trust this demonstrates the incorrectness of such an assumption. When I add the Publisher’s Weekly chick, the Mother Superior, and the field hockey player — not to mention the folky Australian singer/songwriter who writes songs about dragonslaying, the mural artist, the theology prof at Duquesne who specializes in “lay ecclesial ministry”, the nun theology prof at the Aquinas Institute, the garden shop/coffee house owner, the Pittsburgh sister/high school teacher, and the motivational speaker — you can see that we are a very different bunch but still might run into each other’s spheres enough to cause confusion. I learned that lesson at my first Doctor Who convention, but others learn it the hard way.
Still, it shows the cluelessness of the literary establishment, that Harcourt Books didn’t even stop to consider that there might be some confusion if you put out a first novel under the same name as the author of seven novels and a play. (Also, it’s fairly clear that there’s a certain lack of self-promotion in the litfic Maureen. Sheesh, get a website!)
Finally, though, I have to agree with the profound words of M.E. Wood: “I feel akin to every woman named Maureen and often relish… any success they may achieve.”
So get websites, people! And use your middle initials!