A couple of people have asked me why my pen name is A. A. Vora. And why I still display my full name, Ambika Nagino. Because if I'm going to reveal my full name, why use a pen name at all?
Well to put it simply, A. A. Vora was the pen name I chose when I started writing back in 2015. At this point, I was working in a client-based industry (strategy & management consulting) with intentions of staying in it for another 7-8 years at least (ha!). I felt it best that I segregate my professional persona from my writing one. In case potential clients googled me, I didn't think it would be necessarily wise to have them know about my book endeavors. So instead of using Ambika Nagino, I used A. A. Vora—with Vora being my maiden name, and A my middle initial.
The second reason I gravitated toward this pen name was because I wanted something that sounded, for lack of better word, a bit ambiguous. Ambika and Nagino sound distinctly Indian and Japanese respectively. "Vora" despite being an Indian last name, sounds a bit more... inconclusive. The author A. A. Vora could be anyone from anywhere. When I first wrote SPIN OF FATE, I didn't want my ethnicity and nationality to be associated with me, and by extension, my book. I feared that it might set the wrong expectations for readers. They may pick up my book looking for something heavily Indian- or Japanese-inspired. While SPIN OF FATE does, on certain elements, take inspiration from Indian and Japanese culture and language, I would not go so far as to call it an Indian-inspired or Japanese-inspired fantasy. This worry of potentially disappointing someone, or not properly representing my culture enough, is what drove me to choose my pen name. I guess there was a bit of imposter's syndrome at play as well.
Fast-forward to several years later, when SPIN OF FATE was in its last stages of editing. I'd changed industries and my role was a more internal one. My company's HR had officially approved my writing gig as a secondary job / source of income, and my boss—a huge fantasy nerd himself—was very excited about my upcoming book. So I no longer needed to hide behind a pen name for professional reasons.
I'd begun to doubt my second reason for using A. A. Vora as well. Ambika Nagino is my name now. My identity. I may be an Indian-Japanese person, but I can still write whatever I like... right? Ambika Nagino is also—unexpectedly—a rather auspicious name in Japan. You see, there's a whole system where you look at the 'kakusuu' or number of strokes in each kanji (that is, logographic characters that are used in languages such as Japanese and Chinese). From the number of strokes, you can calculate how lucky or auspicious a name is; Ambika Nagino (泙野 安美加) scored perfectly on all five kanji that comprise it, somehow landing a higher score than even my husband's (guess we were destined to marry?!). My mother was also quite keen for me to use Ambika, since she named me after an epic Hindu goddess—so it's a pretty powerful name, one I should have taken more pride in.
So I thought... why not use Ambika Nagino? Unfortunately, despite planning most things months (or years) in advance, I came to this epiphany about an hour or so before my cover reveal. The marketing team had already sent the book cover with A. A. Vora to booksellers, the data was all online—it would have inconvenienced far too many people to change it last minute. So I decided to call it fate (or poor planning?) and stuck with A. A. Vora. However, I didn't want to hide my real name so I went ahead and displayed it on my socials.
Maybe in the future, I'll discard the pen name entirely. But till then, this is me—Ambika Nagino, writing as A. A. Vora.