Tuesday, September 22, 2015


As both an author and as a reader, I have to say that I have a low opinion of ghostwriting. Whatever its intent, I feel it is a dishonest practice. When I was little, I read Babysitters’ Club, Goosebumps, and Sweet Valley. I enjoyed these books, and thought at the time, that these were actually written by the person whose name was on the cover of these books. It was not until years later that I learned that these books were farmed out to various people who would churn out these titles month after month. (I did wonder how Francine Pascal was able to write so many series of Sweet Valley books – at least four monthlies that I know of/remember, plus various specials.

It’s not the worst thing to happen in this world, to be certain, but when I was little, I honestly believed that the authors who had created these universes wrote these stories themselves, and to discover that these books were done by basically anonymous authors in need of a few bucks.

Recently I obtained two books by the author Vince Flynn from my nearest Little Free Library. I really enjoyed both books (military/government thrillers) so I decided to go online and do a bit of research. To my dismay, I found that he had died a couple of years ago from cancer. He was relatively young, and he had a lot of talent and a knack for storytelling.

I was saddened to discover that his books are being continued through a ghostwriter. It doesn’t matter how much a ghostwriter studies an author, NO ONE can ever imitate an author. Some can try, some might get close, but no one is perfectly imitable. I still plan to read more Vince Flynn books because I enjoyed his work and stories, but I have no interest in reading the ghostwritten books.

It’s one thing if an author dies with an unfinished book, and someone else finishes that book with whatever the author was able to finish, plus any notes he may have left for the unfinished part. Even then, I feel that such books need to come with a disclaimer, in a foreword or some such, explaining that the book was completed by someone else due to the true author’s demise. After that, an author’s works and name need to be frankly, left the fuck alone.

Unfortunately, thanks to greedy, unscrupulous publishers, agents, and/or family members, some authors can’t count on their name and dignity being respected after their death. One prime example is V.C. Andrews, author of Flowers in the Attic. At the time of her death, she had seven published novels, plus several others that had been written, but not picked up by a publisher. The IRS declared that her name was a valuable asset that could be taxed, and her family went to town on it, hiring a ghostwriter who has since then written over 70 books under her name. In the beginning, he did a decent job, and was able to complete the few manuscripts she had left uncompleted, but after that, her notes and material ran out, and the books he has been writing have gotten steadily worse and worse, with cliched plots, nonsensical stories, repetitive phrases, and an overall lack of effort.

He’s written more books under V.C.’s name than his own, because he is a lackluster author in his own right, and he knows that if he publishes his own stories under the VCA name, he is guaranteed more profit and readers than if he put his own name on his stories, just because of the weight that VCA’s name carries (and the poor woman has been dead for almost 30 years!)

Despite the suckiness of his recent books, books under her name continue to sell because of the fame and success she earned with the books she wrote under her own name (although older books sell better than more recent ones, which are received more negatively) To this day, many people still believe that the original V.C. Andrews is still alive and writing, and the publishers even push this illusion by putting on the blurh “from the bestselling author of Flowers in the Attic” on recent books.
I can’t imagine anyone ever using my name for things they write. I don’t care about their skill level; if they’re confident that they can do a good job, they should also have the confidence that they can be successful under their own name (whether it be their birth name, or a pen name)

As for authors who are alive, and allow others to write under their name, I can’t say that I have much, if any respect for them. I wouldn’t be bothered if a series had the name of the individual who actually wrote it somewhere in the book (and not in a spot where they would try to hide it) so that readers would know exactly who wrote said book, and how many different authors there are for any series. When you look at a TV show, you have writers for each episode, and you can find their information in the credits. A book shouldn’t be any different.

I certainly don’t want anything that’s not mine, to be credited to my name, especially if that work is lackluster and shoddy. The sad example of V.C. Andrews, among others, should give authors pause in how they want their legacy to be handled after their deaths. I have stated before, and I will state again publicly, that I never have, nor will I ever, give anyone permission to write under my name in case I become ill or die. I would never want to leave behind a legacy that could be tarnished by someone else, especial in the name of profit. Anyone who wants to write, needs to stand on their own feet instead of mooching off someone else’s name and hard work.

No comments:

Post a Comment