Ever wondered what it would be like to be a ghost writer? Well wonder no more, because today I have a guest post from the lovely and amazing Roz Morris, bestselling ghostwriter and book doctor. Thank you so much for being here, today, Roz. It's an absolute honour to have you!
After so long as a ghost, this novel is for
My novels have been in the bestseller lists. Fans discuss them on
well-subscribed message boards. I nurture them on my hard drive and in my head,
but they go out under other people’s names. Such is the lot of the ghostwriter.
Ghosting is how I got my break in publishing. I was serving my apprenticeship in
the writing class at London’s Morley College
and dreamed of rising from the slushpile. I knew my show from my
tell, I understood structure, I could keep a pace ticking and could twizzle
plots and characters into a right old twist.
A lucky accident got me to an editor who
needed a manuscript in a hurry. I wrote a novel to their brief; they liked it.
So began my career as a ghostwriter.
Meanwhile, I was finding my real literary
identity - in the authors I cherished. Iain Banks for oddness, Gavin Maxwell
for humanity, Jan Mark for peculiarity, Donna Tartt for cleverness, Ann
Patchett for passion, Barbara Trapido for humour, Kevin Brockmeier for poetic
They were light years away from the
thrillers I was writing as a ghost.
Finally my own novel was ready - My Memories of a Future Life. If a
trauma in a past life can haunt you in this one, what would you see if you
visited yourself in a future lifetime? My narrator is a concert pianist with a
career-threatening injury who gets involved with fringe healers offering
miracle cures. While she tries to make sense of what she’s seeing in her
possible future, her current life becomes all the more mysterious and tangled. The
novel is a hybrid genre; literary fiction with elements of romance and futuristic
speculation - but most of all it's the story of a lost soul looking for where
she now belongs.
Soon, the novel wooed an agent. Publishers
said it was compelling, original... but could I make it more commercial? A
thriller, perhaps, like those lovely thrillers I sold bucketloads of?
Until that moment, I’d thought my priority
was to see my name on a cover. After so long letting others take the credit,
that gets to be an itch. I could have had it, easily, if I'd changed my novel.
But I’d already got stacks of books I had written to fit the agendas of others.
And the authors whose work I treasured didn’t neuter their books. So I went indie.
When I published, I had a surprise.
With a ghosted book, I’d hand it in and move on. But my own novel keeps coming
back. Out of the blue, readers email me. When this first happened it was a big
and delightful surprise. It still is.
In endlessly unexpected ways, they tell me
I have understood the core conflict of their lives. A few of them tell me off
as well, furious with what I’ve made them experience. (With that in mind, it's
curious to imagine the fanmail I might have inflicted on the authors who
adopted my ghosted novels. I did some bad things in those books.)
I never knew this happened, this renewing current between writer and reader. It
makes me so glad I stuck to my vision, and mined my story for the truths that
were most important to me.
When I write for someone else I'll do
whatever they want. And I don't disagree with those who compromise to secure
publication. We all are aiming for different things.
my own novel has reminded me how our stories become a reader's most private
moments. My prose becomes the voice whispering beside their own thoughts in
their alone-time on the train, or the drowsy pre-dream period last thing at
night. With that in mind, how could I not be true to my material? Obviously
I'll take advice on what isn't working, but I won't change anything for markets
and fashions. Our books outlast those anyway.
After so long writing for other people, my own novels are for me.
Roz Morris is a bestselling ghostwriter and
book doctor. She blogs HERE and has a double life on
Twitter; for writing advice follow her as @dirtywhitecandy, for more normal
chit-chat try her on @ByRozMorris.
She also has a writing book - Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books
And How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, available in printand on Kindle.