I've long been interested in the concept of ghost-writing. It is a fabulously interesting subject, but I've never known enough about the subject to feel confident covering the subject on my own. Of course, when I discovered one of my dear author friends, Brianna Hale, was a non-fiction ghost-writer I knew that I had to interview her for Romantically Inclined Reviews.
A ghost-writer, for those of you who are sitting there scratching your heads, is a person who writes for money, rather than for credit. An individual may employ a ghost-writer to work on a project of their choosing or even pay the ghost-writer for their original work. Typically the ghost-writer will receive no credit for said writing, though they may be mentioned as a co-author or as an editor in the acknowledgements of the book. The individual hiring the ghost-writer typically does so because they want a book written, but do not have the time or writing talent to write it themselves.
You may be wondering why someone would take the time to write a book only to get no credit for the act. Well, it's because of the money, of course. A ghost-writer can make a lot of money depending on the type and difficulty of their assigned product. In fact, a ghost-writer can make anywhere between $10 and $25,000 per book, depending on the length, subject, and quality of their writing.
But before you grab a pen and pencil and started penning the biography of the next person you pass on the street...ghost-writing is exceptionally competitive (which accounts for the wide range of money you can earn doing it). And it isn't an easy career to break into for most people. In order to become a well-paid ghost-writer you typically need to have experience as a freelance author or even a published author in your own right. Once you have that experience you can begin to take on small projects as a ghost-writer.
Now, it's no secret that many famous authors employ ghost-writers (or maybe it is). For instance, James Patterson and Dean Koontz only succeed in pumping out ungodly amounts of books each year due to the help of amazing ghost-writers. I'm sure there are romance authors who employ ghost-writers as well, though it is likely a well-kept secret.
We all know that the romance genre has a reputation for being thee go-to genre for those who want to self-publish and "get rich quick". Those who believe the romance genre to be beneath them have dreams of hiring ghost-writers to crank out romance novels with the end goal of making millions (as if). If you ever go to gig websites like Upworks and Fiverr you'll discover request upon request for ghost-writers to crank out full-length romance novels for bottom-dollar amounts. The long and short of it is that ghost-writing romance novels is not likely to make a ghost-writer--or the person hiring a ghost-writer--a millionaire any time soon (not with the going rate these days). But don't give up on your ghost-writing dream just yet.
In this blog post I interview Brianna Hale, a talented romance author who also works as a non-fiction ghost-writer for those wishing to tell their tales but whom do not have the time, inclination, and/or writing talent to attend to the task themselves.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by me... once again. We'll get right into it. How long have you worked as a non-fiction ghost-writer and how did you get started?
Brianna Hale: I was working as a freelance copywriter after I left my job as a market communications manager, and over coffee with a writer friend I was bemoaning the fact that my current client had me writing advertising copy for a mining supply company. I much prefer subjects that are people and story based. She mentioned a publishing company that produces biographies and matches writers up with clients. I had no experience doing this sort of thing, but I had edited some Cold War autobiographies (one of the reasons I wrote Midnight Hunter) and they seemed to like me and put me on their books. That was about four years ago. I've worked with a few dozen clients now and have been promoted to the top tier of the company's writers.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: What has been one of your best experiences as a non-fiction ghost-writer and what has been one of your most difficult experiences?
Brianna Hale: The best job came with a trip to the south of France last summer. I was sort of a walking guestbook at a wedding, gathering happy memories about the bride and groom from the guests which I compiled into a manuscript. It was at a stunning Rothschild mansion and I had all of the next day to explore the local area.
The worst moment was probably at the same wedding. Everyone had been brilliant and had given me lovely anecdotes about the bride and groom. I'd started at six in the evening and didn't get done until three in the morning. The last person I talked to was on of the groom's best friends. He was very drunk and kept trying to get me to drink with him. I politely refused, which seemed to annoy him. Then he became angry that I didn't already know who he was and his entire history with the groom. He stormed over to the groom a few feet away and started yelling that I didn't know what I was doing and what sort of professional was I? I was tired, hungry, and cold and I nearly burst into tears. The groom apologized profusely. Thankfully that sort of situation isn't likely to come up again! I look back on that experience as a good one despite that small incident. It inspired a lot of the atmosphere in Lap of Luxury. Damir and Bethany go to a party at a huge villa in Monaco, and it's based on that mansion. (I wish Damir had been there to rescue me, he would have done something diabolical to that man!)
Romantically Inclined Reviews: It turns out there are drunk, irrational, predatory men everywhere...even in the south of France. What a fucking disappointment. Moving on to a less infuriating topic, what are some of the fun parts of non-fiction ghost-writing and what are some of the challenges?
Brianna Hale: Every client is different and has different goals in mind. Usually it's to preserve family memories for the next generation. Sometimes, especially for women, it's to document a traumatic experience as part of their healing process. Other times it's about a successful career, a rags-to-riches or self-made-man theme. Last summer I had a string of millionaires, but this year it's been more family-oriented with war memories, loss, and emigration.
The fun part is doing the interviews because I sit there and hear stories about growing up in rural Dorset, surviving the London Blitz, or the war in Lebanon in the 70s. It's remarkable to hear how fourteen-year-old girls were put alone on buses to jobs in service on the other side of the country, or accidentally smuggled lesbian erotica into a prestigious English boarding school, or which relative no one's grandmother or aunt talks about because they were the black sheep and had all sorts of lovers. People tell me the most incredible things.
The challenging part can be talking about sensitive subjects like abuse and grief. The purpose of the book might be to talk about the abuse, but I have to feel out carefully how much detail they want to go into and when they might need a break. This sort of book is usually suggested by the client's therapist as one of the last stages of their healing process, but talking about it is still very difficult. It's always bittersweet signing off the manuscript with them when it's all done.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: That is so incredibly fascinating. I would have never thought about therapists recommending having a book written about traumatic experiences, but after what you said I can imagine it could definitely be therapeutic. I would also think that listening to all those amazing experiences you mentioned above would be great creative fodder for your romance novels. How did you move from non-fiction ghost-writing to writing romance novels?
Brianna Hale: Writing my first Brianna Hale book happened at around the same time as starting non-fiction ghost-writing work, so they evolved concurrently, and continue to do so. Travel and stories are things that inspire my writing so hearing about other people's travel, their family secrets, and the ways people reflect on their experiences keeps my mind ticking over.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: I am utterly intrigued, but in the spirit of keeping these interviews on the shorter side, I'd like to finish up by asking you about your novel Soft Limits. In Soft Limits, your heroine Evie is a ghost-writer hired to write the biography of Frederic, a famous stage actor she admires greatly. I'm guessing that your ghost-writing jobs don't typically lead to your participation in a Daddy Dom/Little Girl lifestyle (given that you're happily married) but how much of your own experiences did you put into developing Evie as a character and creating the plot?
Brianna Hale: Darling Evie is a lot like me in her work and her love of gothic romance! Her character and that plotline was me daydreaming up the most daddy and dramatic result of being a non-fiction ghost-writer. The French aspect was inspired by my obsession with the musical Notre Dame de Paris at the time, and Mr. Hale taking me to Paris for my birthday a few years earlier. We stayed in a beautiful apartment in Le Marais, just north of the Seine, which is incidentally where Frederic lives in Paris.
[Author Note: Brianna Hale only works as a non-fiction ghost-writer. She does not ghost-write romance novels, nor does she employ a ghost-writer for her own romance novels.]
A special thanks to Brianna Hale for allowing me to interview her once again. You can see previous interviews with in my How Taboo is Too Taboo interview here and her Author Spotlight here. Brianna Hale writes romance with a firm hand. To read more about her books, check out her website.