Ghostwriting: Yes or No?

I started reading Johanna Lindsey’s historical romance fiction when I was 13. Fires of Winter took my breath away. I loved the way she wrote, how her words flowed and how likeable her characters were even when they weren’t likeable. My mother liked her and bought her books as soon as they came out, so I read every book she had. As I got older I began to buy them myself. Though some weren’t as good as others, I always enjoyed Johanna’s books.

That stopped in the late 90’s. I can’t recall the first book that seemed a bit off. The wording wasn’t the same, and it didn’t flow as well, but I kept buying out of loyalty. Well, that loyalty ran dry after reading Heart of a Warrior, which was the third novel in her futuristic Viking series. There was no way that book was written by the same author that I had grown up enjoying so much. I haven’t done any research on ghostwriting, and I’m pretty sure that no one will admit if she is using one, but unless she suddenly forgot how to write, it’s not her work in my opinion. Sadly, I don’t buy Johanna’s books anymore, since I was disappointed too many times. I won’t pay to read someone else’s books. Here is a reader who agrees with me in her review of Captive of my Desires that was released in paperback in 2007 (hardback in 2006), about a decade after I stopped reading her books. Scroll down to Margaret’s review “ghostwriter?” on 8/26/06.

At least when VC Andrews died, we all knew that a ghostwriter (referred to as GW for the rest of article) continued her work, but then they had to be upfront about that. Though I think they misled everyone with how much VC left behind after her death and how much Andrew was actually creating on his own. I stopped reading after it became apparent he was just trying to follow a formula that grew very old. It still amazes me to find out that there are actually people out there that don’t know VC Andrews is dead. They continue to read her books, thinking they are by her. So I guess even being upfront about it can still be swept under the rug, but at least there is no deception. If you’re one of those few who didn’t know that VC Andrews is a GW, you can read all about it here.

I would hate to think deception is a writer’s goal in using a GW. It might not even be their choice. Maybe they are bored of writing, but their publisher still wants to make money off their brand name. If they’re under contract, there might be nothing they can do about it. They might not even care, but some of these books just aren’t worthy of having the author’s name put on them. On the other side maybe it is simply that the writer can’t make a deadline, or they’re required to create too many books a year, but shouldn’t they at least make sure their GW writes like they do? That has to be the hardest part. Trying to write like someone else, and maybe trying too hard? Or maybe the worst part is not trying at all, like Johanna’s GW. Heart of a Warrior left such a bad taste in my mouth, I still can’t clear it out of there – and it’s been over 10 years. I have since moved on to another favorite author, and I can only hope that Teresa doesn’t get so big that she someday decides to hire a GW.

Of course I can’t totally ignore the fact that many active writers might need help with plot holes or writer’s block and hire a GW for help. One such site offers this kind of help, but that’s not what this article is about. The problem is when a writer steps back and secretly lets a GW do all the writing for them.

All this is just another great reason to avoid those big NY publishers that think they should pressure their authors into signing lengthy and bloated contracts. The result is subpar work written by someone they didn’t contract with. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty stupid to me. The book may sell solely based on the branded name, but believe me; we readers won’t allow you to burn us too many times. That’s future money you lose and won’t ever regain. Of course those publishers could be hoping to get a new generation of readers that have never read the actual author’s work. There are plenty of people out there that enjoy Johanna’s current books. Must seem strange to them to go back and read her old stuff and not recognize the writing though. Some might even prefer the newer books, thinking her old books aren’t politically correct. They don’t seem to realize that twenty to thirty years ago, rape in romance novels wasn’t considered taboo and was actually more the norm.

I pick a favorite author on how they write. I have no problem with their writing evolving and changing with the times, but that does not mean that the way they write should change. I can’t tolerate reading one of my favorite author’s books and feeling as if I picked up someone else’s work. I know I’m not alone.