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Why does JK Rowling use a pseudonym? Robert Galbraith

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The Harry Potter author said she wanted her new series to stand or fall on its own merit

Yui Mok/PA

In 2013, JK Rowling released the book The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, and after the Sunday Times revealed that it was actually written by Rowling, it became a best-seller.

In August 2022, Galbraith released The Ink Black Heart, the sixth instalment in the pseudonym series, about the brooding private detective Cormoran Strike.

Rowling is one of the best-known authors of all time for the Harry Potter series, so why did she adopt a pseudonym?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym of JK Rowling, the best-selling author of the Harry Potter series and The Casual Vacancy.

The author uses the pseudonym for her crime novel series of six books, The Cormoran Strike, and she has revealed that she chose the moniker Robert because it’s one of her favourite names, and Robert F Kennedy is her hero.

On the Robert Galbraith website, Rowling explains that she wanted to start writing crime novels, but that she wanted to be able to release the new books to a neutral audience, without any pressure, expectation or hype.

On the website, she writes: “I chose Robert because it’s one of my favourite men’s names, because Robert F Kennedy is my hero and because, mercifully, I hadn’t used it for any of the characters in the Potter series or The Casual Vacancy.

“Galbraith came about for a slightly odd reason. When I was a child, I really wanted to be called ‘Ella Galbraith’, and I’ve no idea why. I don’t even know how I knew that the surname existed, because I can’t remember ever meeting anyone with it. Be that as it may, the name had a fascination for me. I actually considered calling myself L A Galbraith for the Strike series, but for fairly obvious reasons decided that initials were a bad idea.

“Odder still, there was a well-known economist called J K Galbraith, something I only remembered by the time it was far too late. I was completely paranoid that people might take this as a clue and land at my real identity, but thankfully nobody was looking that deeply at the author’s name.”

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Rowling has also addressed why she chose a male moniker, saying: “I certainly wanted to take my writing persona as far away as possible from me, so a male pseudonym seemed a good idea.

“I am proud to say, though, that when I ‘unmasked’ myself to my editor David Shelley who had read and enjoyed ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ without realising I wrote it, one of the first things he said was ‘I never would have thought a woman wrote that’. Apparently, I had successfully channelled my inner bloke! “

JK Rowling said to America’s National Public Radio: “[T]here was a phenomenal amount of pressure that went with being the writer of Harry Potter, and that aspect of publishing those books I do not particularly miss.

“So you can probably understand the appeal of going away and creating something very different, and just letting it stand or fall on its own merits.”


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