So, if you’re a really observant person, you might have noticed that the copyright on this website belongs to “Jo Wilson (A.R.W.)” and you may be wondering what’s up with the initials. Well, it’s because my name isn’t really Jo.
I know you’re probably shocked, and maybe you’re even a little hurt that I don’t trust you. Why else would I use a pseudonym on the internet?
Well, the truth is that it isn’t a pseudonym.
When I was born, my mom named me Ashley — a choice inspired by a character on The Bold and the Beautiful because she hadn’t been expecting a girl and that’s what was playing on TV while she was in labor — and my grandmother chose my middle name, Renee. She actually wanted my mom to name me Cherie Renee (pronounced like “shah-ree reh-nay”), but my grandfather vetoed it on the basis that he couldn’t pronounce it.
As it happens, my grandfather thought I should have a different name entirely. For no apparent reason, whatsoever, he called me Ashley Jo. He did the same thing with his two other granddaughters; he called them Annie May and Kayla Faye. What’s funny about it is those nicknames were what everyone on my mom’s side of the family called us when we were growing up, probably reinforced by his constant use of them.
“Come on Ashley Jo! It’s time to get out of bed!” my grandmother would say. Or, “Let’s go, Jo. We’re gonna be late.”
“Ashley Jo! You’re in big trouble!” my mother would say. Or, when I wasn’t in trouble, it was, “I love you, Ashley Jo!”
But I liked it best when Papa would say, “Hello, Ashley Jo!” When he said that, it meant he was going to drop everything to spend time with me.
I was exactly a week shy of ten years old when he passed away. It was the single most devastating experience of my life, because were very close. I didn’t handle it very well when he passed, and I think that might be why my family stopped using his nickname for me. I can’t really remember when they stopped or why, but at some point after he died, the name Jo died with him. When I put it like that, it actually seems kind of appropriate — because part of me died the day he did.
Anyways, even before he passed away, at school I was always Ashley, because that’s the name on my birth certificate and what the teacher saw when they called role off their list of students. So, it’s not like I wasn’t already used to it. I missed my other name, though.
As I grew into my awkward teenaged self, I discovered that I had a talent for writing, and I also learned a few things about my dad that made me very proud to be a Wilson. Instead of using a fake last name — as I at one point planned to do — I decided I should sign all of my work as Ashley R. Wilson. (The middle initial makes it badass, right?)
It was when I wrote my first novel that I changed my mind. You see, the story was a coming-of-age drama (with some comic relief, of course) about a family dealing with the loss of their patriarch and coming to terms with a whopper of a family secret. (It also involved rock stars and Corvettes. And now you’re just dying to read it.) It was both a tribute to and inspired by my relationships with the men in my family, especially both of my grandfathers, my father and my brother. When I thought about who I wanted to dedicate the book to, all of them came to mind.
It was at about that point that I realized that my dad and Papa were a lot of the reason I became a writer in the first place. Papa always encouraged me to play with my imagination, and my dad always encouraged my budding talent for telling stories. For that reason, I could conceivably dedicate every book I’ll ever write to them.
So, I decided to write in their names — the names they gave me. Jo and Wilson.