A Wicked Welcome to Nikki Knight **plus a giveaway!**

by Julie, having survived the winter storm over the weekend in Somerville

I am so glad to introduce you all to Nikki Knight, who you already know as Kathleen Marple Kalb! Her new series launches February 7, and she’s here to tell us all about it.

Call Me Anything, Just Call Me

Writers really vex about pen names.

When my agent was shopping my first historical mystery, he wasn’t sure I should use my real maiden name: Marple. He thought it was a little too much. I said I’d been Kathleen Marple Kalb on the air in New York for years now, and editors, and later readers, might remember the name.

Plus the fact that I’d spent most of my adult life showing my driver’s license to prove that I really was born Miss Marple. There’s a long history of memorable fake names in radio. But mine isn’t one of them!

So, Kathleen Marple Kalb I stayed, on the air, and on the cover of the Ella Shane historical mysteries for Kensington.

But then, when Crooked Lane picked up LIVE, LOCAL, AND DEAD, my first contemporary mystery, set at a Vermont radio station, a pen name was part of the deal. I saw it through the lens of radio: my traffic reporter buddies have always used different names on different stations, even though everyone recognized their voices and knew it was the same person.

So that part wasn’t too tough.

Coming up with the actual pen name, though?

That was a challenge.

Much earlier in my writing journey, before I realized that I’d need every single scrap of potential connection to agents, editors, and readers, I’d noodled about possible pen names. I always leaned toward family names, like my grandmother’s perfectly old-fashioned first name, Violet. Or maybe my son’s first name as a last name. I’d read that Elizabeth Peters, aka Barbara Michaels, one of my favorite authors, used her kids’ names, and that sounded like a nice way to honor my family.

But I couldn’t. My husband and I have always kept a firewall around our son’s privacy. On my social media, he’s “the Imp.” In this scary world, I just don’t want my boy’s real name out there. We’re determined to protect his privacy…even if he’s going to throw it all away in his first week of college!

So what on earth to call myself?

I thought about honoring some of my radio pals – I almost picked “Julie Belmont,” for my best beta reader and my favorite on-air partner. Or maybe Winnie Something, a tip of the cap to my current employer, 1010 WINS.

Finally, it hit me.

If I’m going to use a pretend name on a book about a DJ, why not choose a really classic name for a woman jock? And why not have fun with it? Crystal Starr was in play for a minute or two, until I ran it past my husband.

He laughed. And then, doing his very best imitation of my radio voice, he pronounced it: “Nikki Knight.”


More perfect than even he realized – in the run-up to publication, I’ve had people reaching out to me and asking if I’m the Nikki Knight they worked with way back when.

Probably not.

But more evidence that I chose the right name: a tip of the cap to radio, a long line of women DJ’s who’ve worked their way into the business…and especially, to my husband, who not only gave me his name, but mine!

Question: Readers, do you think much about a writer’s name, or do you just accept it at face value? (One randomly chosen commenter gets a copy of LIVE, LOCAL, AND DEAD)

ART: Author photos taken by Steven Kalb, 1010 WINS studio picture from my personal collection.

Nikki Knight is the pen name of award-winning radio news anchor and mystery writer Kathleen Marple Kalb. She writes the Ella Shane historical mystery series for Kensington, and her short stories appear in several anthologies. Her “Bad Apples” was an Honorable Mention in the 2021 Black Orchid Novella Contest. 

LIVE, LOCAL, AND DEAD (2/8/22) follows New York City DJ Jaye Jordan’s new start at a tiny Vermont radio station, after her husband survives cancer but their marriage doesn’t. She thinks she’s got enough trouble with protests because she replaced angry talk with love songs…and then the talk show host turns up dead in a snowman in front of the station. Plus, her second-chance romance with her old crush – the governor – turns out to be much more dangerous than either of them expected. Add in a colorful cast of locals, the cranky station cat Neptune, and Charlemagne the Moose, who has flatulence issues…and it’s more fun than anyone should be allowed to have in maple sugaring season.

Buy: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/695810/live-local-and-dead-by-nikki-knight/

72 Thoughts

  1. I love your pen name. Your husband is a genius. I don’t think of pen names often, but some are just so obvious that it is kind of annoying. My husband was in radio for 50 years and only used a “radio name” one time. For 14 years, we owned a radio station which we both worked at. I never used a radio name. We were just too well known in town to try that. People I didn’t know would recognize my voice in the next aisle over in a grocery store.

    I’m really looking forward to this series!

    1. Thank you so much, Ginny! I had the exact same experience in Vermont — I’d be in the Grand Union with wet hair and a frozen dinner in my basket and people would come up and talk to me about things they’d heard on the air!

    2. Thank you so much! I had the exact same experience in Vermont — I’d be in the Grand Union with wet hair and people would come up to me and comment on something they’d heard on the air! That’s the wonderful thing about local radio — we belong to our communities.

  2. Congratulations on your upcoming book release. How is it I didn’t know you work for 1010 WINS? I love pen names on writers and I do understand why the name change. I also like knowing how they came up with the name. Nikki Knight is perfect.

    1. Thank you, Dru! Glad you like the name! I’ve tried over the years to keep a little bit of distance between the writing and the journalism…but at this point, everyone knows it’s me! (And everyone I’ve ever worked with is looking for themselves in the radio book in a way they didn’t in the other books!)

  3. Thank, Dru! I’m glad you like the name! I’ve tried to keep a little separation between the journalism and the fiction…but at this point, everyone knows it’s me. (And everyone I work with is looking for themselves in the radio book — which they didn’t do in the others!)

  4. I don’t think much about an author’s name. If I find out it’s a pen name I might wonder how they came up with it but I just use the name for recognition.

    1. That’s pretty much how I am as a reader, Carol — I just want to enjoy a good book, and know where to find the next one in a series!

  5. Initially I don’t think much about a writer’s name when I pick up their book. I just assume it is their name. When I find out that it is a pen name, I start to look at what other books they’ve written to decide if I want to read those as well.

    Whether real name or nom de plume, I just want them to tell me a great story.

    And Kathleen / Nikki, I’m definitely interested in picking up this new series as I love radio and DJs. And with my dad being originally from Vermont, I feel honor bound to read the series as well.

    I can’t wait for LIVE, LOCAL, AND DEAD!

    1. Thank you so much! You will probably recognize a lot — there is a scene were “Paradise by the Dasboard Light” is played, not because they like the song…but because they need eight minutes away from the mic!

      1. Kathleen, yes Meat Loaf’s classic track is definitely a good bathroom break kind of track!

  6. I honestly don’t think much about pen names as long as the story is good. There are a few that I wonder about if the story sounds like the stories of another author though. Just give me something I can escape into for a few hours.

    1. I agree with you on the escape, Brenda! If I’m getting a good ride, the author can call themselvesw anything they like!

  7. Sometimes I wonder if it’s their real name or not but then it doesn’t really matter to me. I just want to read their wonderful books. Thank you for this chance at your giveaway! pgenest57 at aol dot com

  8. Love your pen name and your real name! I don’t really think about authors names, but it’s interesting to read how they came about. Your husband is very clever!

  9. For me, it’s not an instant thing. I’m more of a after reading a couple books by an author start to maybe see a connection to the name. Imagine it’s both fun and frustrating to have to pick a pen name. Since I was teased often on my maiden last name, I’d always wondered how it would be if I could change it. However, my grandfather did when he entered the U.S. and he didn’t do such a great job – thus the teasing for me.

    “LIVE, LOCAL, AND DEAD” sounds like a wonderful book and one I would thoroughly enjoy reading and reviewing. Thanks for the chance to win a coy!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Thank you! What was your grandfather’s name? A school friend of mine had the last name “Chestnut,” and seriously considered changing it back to the pre-Ellis Island “Czednik,” because she got sick of the comments.

  10. I do sometimes wonder how a writer came up with their pen name. And for those writers with several pseudonyms, it sometimes makes it challenging if I really like their books and want to read others by that person. Luckily there’s a website that lists them all.

    1. I agree! I know traffic reporters who have four or five names..and I can’t imagine how they came up with it — or keep them all straight! The website is probably a big help for readers.

  11. Congratulations Nikki/Kathleen! I don’t usually think about the name. I just enjoy the books.

    My dad worked in radio for a long time and had a “radio name.” His real one didn’t slide off the tongue. LOL

    1. Thank you! The whole name thing has really changed in radio in the last ten years or so…bosses now actually LIKE diversity in names. I have friends with “radio names” who are thinking of returning to their original ones!

  12. I don’t think much about an author’s pen name, although I love knowing the back story – and there always is one, even if it’s because my publisher handed it out – I do like knowing all the names a writer I admire writes as. That gives me more books to enjoy! I’ll happily cross genres to follow an author I admire.

    1. I do the same thing, Kait! I followed Elizabeth Peters everywhere, whatever she was calling herself on the given day…and I like knowing that my favorite writers like to stretch.

  13. I figure there’s a reason for pen names & the choice should be up to the author. I don’t believe the author needs to share why he/she chose a specific name. When I know all the names of my favorite authors, it gives me new books to try. I don’t always like their other genres but I’m willing to give them a try.

    1. I really appreciate your willingness to follow authors among genres…that’s so encouraging for writers!

    1. Thank you so much! This one was at least seven years in the making, so it’s a real treat to see!

  14. Congratulations on the new book! It sounds really good. I never thought about pen names. I didn’t realize so much went into it.

    1. Thank you! And I have to compliment you on YOUR name — my grandmother was a “Violet,” and I love the name!

  15. I don’t really think about an author’s pen name, unless it’s alliterative or clever in some other way. I do tend to keep track of author’s different names, though. Congratulations on the new series!

    1. Thank you! It’s really encouraging to know that you like to follow your favorite writers!

  16. Hi Nikki. Such interesting and fun information to know about you! Only just recently I found out several reasons why authors us more than one name, and I am impressed by the various situations that cause authors to write under pseudonyms. Your explanation was so much fun to read, and I will be sharing it with my book club. I’m hooked…I will be adding your books to my TBR list with anticipation. Thank you for sharing your story, and your writing talents with us. Luis at ole dot travel

    1. Thank you so much, Luis! I’m so glad you liked it — and that you’re sharing! It was a lot of fun to tell the story!

    1. Thank you! It IS kind of a kick…even if it doesn’t protect you from having everyone think you were writing about THEM!

  17. Congrats on the new series! I always find it interesting how a writer picks their pen name, so thanks for that behind the scenes look.

    1. Thank you, Mark! My name’s always been part of the story (being a mystery writer born Marple, I can’t help it) but it was fun to come up with something new!

  18. So neat hearing about the reason for pen names. I never really thought much about it. If its a favorite author I know then I’m curious about other books they have written under different names. So neat. Thanks for the chance!!!

  19. I realize that authors have a pen name or two and I’m more interested in the book than the name on the cover.

  20. So fun to hear about your pen name journey. As an aspiring cozy writer, I’ve been thinking a lot about what to use as a pen name (especially since my real name is hard to pronounce AND spell!). I look forward to reading Live, Local, and Dead!

  21. Thank you! I know what you mean about pronouncing and spelling…I’ve spent my life saying “No, not Maple, MARPLE!” Some people I know, though, make a “difficult” name into a memorable calling card, so yours might just work for you!

  22. Hi, Congratulations on your new series. An authors name is their name and I respect that, to me the name they choose as a pen name has no effect on their books I read, if I love their books I will stick with them. Thank you so much for sharing this post about pen names. Have a great week and stay safe.

    1. Thank you so much for the good wishes! It’s so wonderful to hear that readers follow “their” writers from book to book — it means a lot!

  23. Your book sounds like one I want to read! I had a high school friend who became a DJ. And, once many moons ago, I was invited to participate in a round table discussion on a “talk radio” show. Seeing the behind the scenes of radio was a highlight in my early life. As for pen names, you now have an easy to remember one! Cheers for your husband and his brilliant idea!

  24. Thank you so much, Judy! Radio definitely IS a pretty cool world — and I’m thrilled to be able to take readers into it!

  25. What a great story! Usually, I figure the author’s name is at least a partial ‘fake’ one, like someone using a maiden name or their grandma’s name. Looking forward to lots of books from Nikki Knight!!

  26. Love your Penn Name but wish you would’ve gone with Crystal Starr.
    Love book cover and title.
    Would love to read & review book in print format.

  27. I like pen names and finding out that one series I love has a another series with different name but same author if that makes sense! I can’t wait to read this new one!

    1. Thank you so much! I still remember how thrilled I was the first time I found out that one of my favorite writers had a second series under another name!

  28. I accept the author’s name at face value. I love the cover. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you. Please stay safe.

  29. I’ve never thought much about why or how authors choose pen names, thanks for the interesting information. Your husband picked an awesome name for you!

    1. Thank YOU! (And my husband will never let me forget that he chose the name!)

  30. I didn’t, either for a long time! It was only after a few years in radio, where people called themselves different things at different stations so they could keep a couple of part-time jobs, that it made some sense to me.

  31. Thanks for letting me know about picking out a pen name with your husband’s expert assistance. It makes me smile. I look at and try to remember names of favorite authors so I can find other things they’ve written.

  32. I have never really given a thought to the significance of picking a pen name. Thanks for sharing about yours and I believe your husband’s choice was a good one.

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