- Is that your real name?
- No. My real name is Lawrence Watt Evans, with no hyphen. I used that as a byline until 1979, and published one short story and a handful of articles under that name.
- Aw, isn't it sweet that you hyphenated your name with your wife's?
- No. "Watt" is my mother's maiden name, not my wife's, and my parents gave it to me as a middle name. My brother and one of my sisters got our grandmothers' maiden names.
- What sort of name is Watt-Evans, anyway?
- A non-existent one. No one is really named Watt-Evans; if you encounter fictional characters with the name, they were named after me.
- Then why do you use it?
When I sold my first novel to Lester del Rey I tried to use another pen name because there was another writer named Lawrence Evans (whose name I have not seen in print since 1978, damn it) and a couple of writers named Larry Evans (not that I let anyone call me Larry). Even though I had been published under my real name until then, I thought that if the name was going on a book it ought to be something distinctive, so no one would get me mixed up with those other guys.
Lester objected; he said he didn't approve of using pen names unless there was a damn good reason. (Yes, this was hypocritical.) He thought I should just use Lawrence Evans.
I pointed out the other writers and insisted that my middle name be included.
Lester had no problem with that. In fact, when I got the galley proofs of The Lure of the Basilisk, he had added the hyphen "to make it more distinctive." And since The Lure of the Basilisk sold pretty well, I've been stuck with it ever since.
I could have argued, but I didn't. I thought the hyphen made it look pretty classy. I hadn't realized it would cause hassles later. If I could do it over, I'd use L.W. Evans.
- So if that's a pen name, do you write under any other names?
- Will you tell us what any of them are?
- All right. I used to try to keep them secret, but that never worked very well -- too many people knew them. I've used Nathan Archer for several novels and a few short stories, and Walter Vance Awsten (an anagram of "Lawrence Watt Evans") for a couple of short stories. I don't recall any others being used professionally, though I may be forgetting something.
- What do people call you?
When I was a kid I was called "Larry," but I always hated it. Not only did I think it sounded stupid, but I noticed early on that anyone in stories or on TV who was called Larry (with the lone exception of Larry Talbot, the Wolfman, who I disliked for other reasons) was a hapless idiot. "Lawrence" was a name for pompous twits, but I'd rather be a pompous twit than a hapless idiot, so ever since I was old enough to make it stick I've gone by Lawrence, or by various nicknames I've picked up over the years that are, frankly, none of your business.
If anyone calls me Larry, or tells you I'm called Larry, he's either pretending to knowledge he hasn't got, or trying to get you in trouble, as I can get very, very grouchy on the subject.
- Why'd your parents name you Lawrence, anyway? Is it a family name?
No, they just liked it -- there's never been another Lawrence in my family. My father told me once that I was named for E.O. Lawrence the physicist, the same guy the Lawrence-Livermore Laboratory is named for, but I'm not 100% certain he was serious. Supposedly they used the last name because my mother wouldn't let me be named Ernest, and my father wouldn't accept Orlando. Of those possibilities, I suppose I got the best of a bad lot. Though Orlando might not suck.
- So you're a Watt on your mother's side? What's that about?
Yup. Watt is a Scottish name -- my grandfather came from a town near Dundee. I've been told that the Watts are a sept of Clan Buchanan, of that ilk, but I haven't verified it. It's not the same name as "Watts," despite the obvious similarity -- I've heard that "Watts" is Welsh, rather than Scottish.
And yes, my grandfather said we are related to the James Watt who developed the steam engine, though we aren't sure just how, as Grandpa's story changed from one visit to the next. (Grandpa Watt was clearly where I got my knack for fiction.) We're probably related to that abominable twit who served as Reagan's Secretary of the Interior, too, though I hope only very, very distantly.
- Evans is a Welsh name, right? So you're half Welsh?
It's a Welsh name, but there's no evidence of Welsh ancestry on my father's side. We don't really know the family history back more than a little over two hundred years, and at that point the Evanses had already been in America for some time.
There are two conflicting versions beyond that. According to one with no documentation whatsoever, and which I can't even remember the source of, a direct ancestor named Daniel Evans came to America in the 17th century; he had allegedy grown up in London, not Wales. According to the other story, which one of my sisters found on Ancestry.com, we're actually descended from a guy named Hickson who started using "Evans," his stepfather's name, as a kid, so there may not be any actual Evans blood at all. There's a little Welsh on my mother's side, from a couple of lines, but my ancestry's mostly English, despite the Celtic names. There's also the Scottish bit, some French and Dutch, and there might be some other traces -- according to an Ancestry.com DNA test, there's Spanish and Senegalese (there's a story about one of my ancestors on my father's father's mother's mother's side being an escaped slave, and the percentage and story match up well). Family stories would also bring in something Scandinavian, some Scots Irish, Manx, etc., but we don't know how reliable any of that is, and the DNA test can't distinguish that from other stuff. We're mostly just English in ancestry.
The Census Bureau says Evans is the 48th most common surname in the U.S., but almost none of those Evanses are related to my family -- my father was the only child of an only surviving son, so the closest another Evans could be to us is third cousins, and we don't know of any. Since that three generations takes us back to when my ancestors lived in eastern Ohio, it's not completely impossible that Bob Evans the Ohioan sausage manufacturer was a distant cousin, but that's about it for any famous kin named Evans. If anyone named Evans claims to be my cousin, he's lying. I do have a brother, and one of my sisters uses her maiden name, but that's it.
That's it; here's your list of handy exits: