You can’t pick your relatives, but you can pick your name–at least you can if you’re a fiction writer. Yes, Raegan Teller is my pen name. My ancestry is Welsh on my father’s side, so I chose an Irish first name, Raegan, which means “spiritual strength,” and an English surname, Teller, which means “storyteller.” In my non-fiction life, I am Wanda Craig, a business writer and copy editor. I’ve also been a marketing manager, executive coach, corporate training manager, and an insurance claims adjuster. While I was in school, I even sold burial vaults.

I’m often aMagnifiersked, “Why use a pen name?” Originally, my reason was that I wanted to write without worrying about what my business clients might think. I imagined one of them saying, “That’s the same writer that wrote my marketing brochure. I didn’t know she wrote about murder and mayhem. Yuk.” Since I am winding down my business of 17 years, I really don’t have that excuse any longer. Nonetheless, I am keeping the pen name, because I’ve learned that I need an alter ego when writing fiction. When I take on the persona of Raegan Teller, it’s reflected in my writing. I write freer and more creatively. Besides, it’s fun to reinvent yourself—I highly recommend it as a cheap form of therapy.

Not surprisingly, I am a fan of fictional mysteries and suspense stories. Like most writers, I read voraciously and have been influenced by every mystery author I’ve read. Mostly in a positive way. I’m often asked who my favorite writer is, and my answer is usually the author of the latest, well-written book I’ve read. While writing this first novel, I realized my writing is particularly influenced by a handful of writers like John Grisham, Harlan Coben, and Mark Ethridge. (I’m proud to add North Carolina’s Ethridge to this list because I think his work has gone relatively unnoticed. If you haven’t read Grievances, you should.) I could certainly add a few more authors, and maybe I will later, but these come to mind most readily.

What these writers have in common for me is that the protagonists are often ordinary people caught up in events that put them in extraordinary situations. Family dynamics are often a crucial part of plot, and the murder-and-crime part of their stories is secondary to the emotional turmoil and human heartache that unfold. Most importantly, these authors, like all good ones, are outstanding storytellers.

I hope you’ll agree that Raegan Teller is a good storyteller, too.