Thursday 10 May 2012

Please welcome Roz Morris, bestselling ghostwriter and book doctor ...

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 me.

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 vision.

They were light years away from the thrillers I was writing as a ghost.

You can read my
review of this here.
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.
But publishing 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.

My Memories of a Future Life is available on Kindle (US and UK) and also in print. You can also listen to or download a free audio of the first 4 chapters here.

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.           


  1. Roz, congratulations on YOUR first book! Glad you didn't compromise.

  2. And congrats! What a treat to write your own fiction! But what a wonderful gift ghosting was a way into the industry and the experience!

  3. What an excellent post! Roz, your book sounds phenomenal and I can't wait to buy a copy. I understand how hard it is to break away from ghostwriting (I recently quit cold turkey) and I applaud you for sticking to your convictions and writing for yourself now. No matter how many books you've ghostwritten and how much success you've seen the 'authors' receive, writing under your own name is a hard transition. Congratulations on persevering through that change and I wish you the best of everything in your new writing career.

  4. Fascinating, often wondered. Great preparation for your own novels.

  5. This. Is. AWESOME! Congrats to you, Roz.

  6. Such an awesome article! Congrats Roz, I'll have to check out your books. YOUR books.

    And I have to say, as a 'Frasier' have an awesome name :)

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  7. Hello, everyone - thanks all of you for having me here today, and most of all to Jessica for hosting me.

    @Alex - I've never been a compromising kind of person, and this situation really cemented it. But if indie publishing hadn't gone through so many changes in 2011, I doubt I would have risked it with my novel because not so long ago it was not a respected path. I'm grateful to other novelists who paved the way.

    @Laura - hi! Looking forward to having you on The Undercover Soundtrack next week! Yes, ghosting was a great way into the industry. Even though my first book didn't have my name on it, holding the printed copy was a real thrill.

    @Trish - hail, fellow ghost! I'm not saying I'll never go back to it, because each project is different. But now I've really got a taste for writing my own way. Best of luck with your breakaway too.

    @Carole - it certainly is great grounding, and fun as well. It's strangely liberating to try on someone else's world for a while. Although there are frustrations of course.

    @Matthew @lbdiamond - thanks!

    @Sarah - *MY* books... yes that certainly feels good! And I LOVE Frasier and thoroughly approve of my alter ego.

  8. I suppose every writer (even if only in their own head) has to navigate that line between what they want and what other people want... or what the writer thinks other people want.

  9. With freedom comes responsibility, Bryan - absolutely!

  10. I hear ya, sister. And I LOVED your novel. Wishing you huge success with it!


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