• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:


    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!

     

     

Emerging Writers: don’t give up the ghost

Image of Tale of Genji

The Tale of Genji was written during the Edo period, Nise Murasaki Inaka Genji.

A ghost writer is someone who is paid to write books, articles, reports, or other texts (including tweets) that are credited to another person. Just like the name implies, the ghost’s contribution is hidden. Sometimes you can see a glimmer or outline of the invisible author via the tags ‘with’ or ‘as told to’. The aim though, is to put the spotlight on the other person.  

Ghost writing has been in practice for thousands of years. The ancient novel, The Tale of the Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, is often cited as an example.  This epic tome was released in the early 11th century and found a wide readership with women who otherwise lived reclusive, sheltered lives. Shikibu, a Japanese noblewoman, is credited for the four thousand four hundred pages, but scholars are still in debate. The popular theory is that she wrote to the end of chapter thirty three and then handed the book to her daughter, Daini no Sanmi, to complete the work (fifty-four chapters in all).

The authorship of William Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets are also in question. Many scholars believe that Shakespeare didn’t even exist, which puts a whole new meaning on To be or not to be! One school of thought is that Shakespeare is a nom de plume for the Earl of Oxford who had hoped to write in anonymity. Another theory claims Shakespeare was the invention of a group of writers who wanted to affect social change.

Film and drama explore the notion of ghost writing beautifully in the 1897 play, Cyrano de Bergerac. I particularly like the film adaptation Roxanne with Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah, and Cyrano de Bergerac 1990 with Gerard Depradieu and Anne Brochet.

Some very well known speculative fiction writers have been ‘ghosts’ including HP Lovecraft and Theodore Sturgeon. Lovecraft wrote for Zealia Bishop and Harry Houdini, among others and Sturgeon ghosted under the name, Ellery Queen, a group of writers producing books from 1930 to the 1960’s. It’s surprising to look at some of the books that have been ghost written by other authors including the Nancy Drew series!

But how is this relevant to emerging writers? Ghost writing can be a wonderful tool for getting control of your authorial ‘voice’, learning how to fluidly change points of view and develop a rich and masterful style. To ghost write successfully, the feel, tone and character of the voice has to be distinct and consistent. It has to ‘belong to’ someone else. Writing in that other voice takes the pressure off the author (no one can see me), giving them the confidence they need to improve their own prose. Ghosting is also the perfect antidote for a creative slump. It allows for a step back from the sometimes too close attachment to the work. Also, ghost writing pays!

I’ve done a fair bit of ghosting in my day and though I sign my own name now, the experience has made me a more confident writer. Has anyone here done ghosting? Nom de plumes?  What great books have you read that were written by ghosts?

Kim Falconer is the author of the Quantum Enchantment and Quantum Encryption trilogies, set in the worlds of Gaela and Earth and exploring all manner of ideas, people and places. The latest in the series is Road to the Soul, which will be published on 1 March. Visit Kim’s website and find out more about Kim and her books!

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11 Responses

  1. Almost the first prose I wrote for “publication” was ghosting. I’d been writing scripts for a TV show I was involved with, and an artist friend hired me to do publicity for his 10-year retrospective of painting and small sculptures.

    Part of the job was copy editing the show’s catalogue, a beautifully produced 16-page booklet. It rapidly became apparent that although my friend is a brilliant painter, he cannot write anything shorter than a thesis when it comes to describing his relationship to his art.

    I interviewed him for a couple of hours and managed to produce a 300-word “artist’s statement” in HIS voice. Not only did he approve it, he looked sideways at me, as if I’d stolen a piece of his soul. Heheheh.

    I still read that thing every time I think I don’t know how to this writing thing, just to remind me that at least ONCE I totally nailed it 😉

    • Oh I LIKE that story! That’s what you want, if you’re ghosting, that sideways glance where they think you might have ‘stolen’ something from them! Brilliant.

      I consider ghost writing a great tool for ‘writers block’ as well, or just moving an idea forward. I mean, when you are writing fiction, first person or third, you are your character’s ghost!

      Thanks for dropping in with your comments. 🙂

  2. Ooh, hadn’t thought of that. I’m gonna try it on a short story – ghosting for my MC. Sweet, thanks!!

  3. This was just the push I needed, Kim. I have toyed with that idea in order to get “the great love story” out there, but just couldn’t face the public view. Ghost writing at this stage will actually give it more form.

    Interesting timing too. 🙂

  4. I really like the positive spin you put on the act of ‘ghost writing’ here Kim.

    The three who immediately spring to mind are the aussie Michael Robotham (who ghost wrote bios for celebrities), Andrew Neiderman who has ghost written as V.C Andrews to carry on the legacy there (a close family friends of the Andrews who as approached to continue her work after death) and Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman.

    I’m considering putting some work under a different name for other reason – namely, to remove my name from being associated with a certain project. I’m unable to withdraw the work and was very unhappy with the editing done, and am now to the point where I am just over it – and would prefer to create an alias to publish it under.

    But I like the idea of being freed from my name.

    I often think editing is a bit like ghost writing, in capturing the essence of a writer’s work and ensuring it remains true, through the changes. Or maybe I’m just a bit weird!

    • Jodi, That’s not the best circumstances, to ghost your name because you’re not happy with the editing. Sorry to hear that, but you are right, it can be a great freedom writing as someone else.

      Your idea that editing is like ghost writing is just brilliant. It’s so true. You get into the author’s voice and support and enhance the work. Not weird at all. What do other editors thing? Ever Feel like a ghost?

      Thank you Jodi for bringing your voice to the table! 🙂

  5. What a great post, as always. And some really interesting comments. I love Janette’s comment about being looked at as though she had stolen part of the artist’s soul!

    I think there is a real and important difference between ghost writing proper – where you step in for an existing and known person, adopting their voice and style; and taking on an alias for yourself – which may be for various reasons that may or may not include an alternative voice and style to match the different name.

    I have never thought of editing as ghosting before, but I think Jodi makes a good point. Editors certainly need the skills of a ghostwriter to be able to slip in and out of any author’s work undetected. An editor needs to be chameleon-like, blending in with the voice and style that’s already there as she/he goes about adjusting structure, sentences, words.
    The editor should have a feel for an author’s word choice, for example, so that even when substituting or making suggestions, changes are within the writer’s favoured vocabulary rather than the editor’s. A little of Janette’s soul-sucking at work!

    Ideally though, the editor shouldn’t be needing to do SO much reworking that they actually feel as though they have ghostwritten a piece!

    Copywriting and sub-editing can be a little like ghostwriting in that way. In both cases you are not necessarily credited for your work at all, but you are the “voice” of the brand/product/publication. You are the ghostwriter for that voice. (The ghost of a ghost?). As the writer or sub, you ought to be interchangeable because that essence – the original voice – should never change.

    • That’s a great point about editors using the author’s vocabulary for suggested changes. I’ve had suggestions that I just stared at and thought, I’ve would never use that word! But usually I get what the editor is saying. Either they didn’t understand my point (which means I need to find a clearer way to express it) or they did understand it but the word/reference didn’t make sense. Either way, I zero in on the issue and solve it. (but not always with their suggested ‘out-of-left-field-to-me’ word) 🙂

      When ghosting, I have a style sheet that includes a list of words most likely to roll off my client’s tongue. It’s so helpful for getting under their skin–which is where you have to be to ghost write.

      This is why I think ghost writing is such a wonderful way to develop one’s own voice. When you know what it isn’t, you can discover what it is.

      Thanks for dropping in! I love getting insights into an editor’s perspective. 🙂

  6. I think Australian crime writer Michael Rowbotham (‘The NIght Ferry’ and a good few others) is a great example of how ghostwriting -in his case many different celebs – has really helped in writing consistent and compelling POVs for a wide variety of characters in his own novels.

    I’ve heard him talk at writers’ events about this very handy background experience and it’s very clear in his books: he can present the reader with, say, the first-person POV of a key suspect or detective or criminal, change the POV sometimes, but in each case gives the reader a clear “through-their-eyes” angle on what is happening.

    Cheers, Tim/’Farnwyn’

  7. […] {link} The Voyager Blog: “Emerging Writers: don’t give up the ghost” by Kim Falconer {link} Plotting Made Easy: “The Complications Worksheet” {link} Blood and Barricades: […]

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