To adopt a pen name, or not to adopt a pen name, that was indeed the question we asked ourselves. In this technological age of identity theft and stalking made easy, it seemed like a smart idea. But really, if someone has even a modicum of internet knowledge, they can pretty much find out what they want to about you and no pen name will stop them.
Just look at what recently happened to J.K. Rowling when she published her debut crime novel (note: The author of the Harry Potter series published under a male pseudonym; the book was barely on the stands when her secret was leaked to papers). It seems that the using of a pen name won't stop anyone from finding out who you really are if they care to dig a bit, so why bother?
Well, aside from most people not questioning (or caring, or minding) that the author they are reading is using a nom de plume, what other benefits could there be to not using your real name on your published works? Just ask Best-selling author Nora Roberts! She uses multiple pen names for different genres, like most authors writing in more than one genre tend to do (to separate their works - imagine seeing your fav author's name on a new release and picking it up, only to find that it's not an undead unicorn and plagues Horror, but a kittens singing atop pink toadstools middle-reader). Then there are authors like Stephen King and Kim Harrison who adopt a pen name when they are just starting out. That being said, where does Fay McDermott fit in?
I'd say a bit of all of these things, really! We, the two halves that make the one name, hadn't imagined writing romance novels. One of us was an avid fantasy writer and the other (me) was deep into writing dark fantasies and horrors. But being in the same writing group (where we met) and received encouragement to try the romance genre, we crossed our fingers and leaped in! Choosing a pen name made it easier in two significant ways. 1) if we sucked we could deny responsibility, and 2) we could save our real names if we chose to try publishing in our preferred genres. Well, that and the illusion of privacy on the inter webs.