Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ghosting Thrillers

I loved Robert Harris’ ITW Award Winning political thriller ‘The Ghost’ with its satirical portrayal of a controversial ‘ex-British Prime Minister’ writing his memoirs, via a ghost-writer [including his role in the so-called ‘War on Terror’]. I loved the book which fictionalised not only the PM but also the role of a ghost-writer. I recently interviewed thriller writer Joe Finder [Vanished] who was the head judge for the ITW Best Novel Panel that selected Harris’ The Ghost, and this is what he had to say –

Ali Karim: Last year you served as a head judge for the 2008 Thriller Awards, handling the Best Novel nominees. What sort of work did you face in that position?

Joe Finder: It involved reading hundreds of novels, which was incredibly time-consuming. There was plenty of crap, but there were also a lot of really good thrillers. The problem my fellow judges and I faced was how to choose among some very different sorts of thrillers--romantic suspense, action, military, high-tech, quiet and literary, fast and gripping. We ended up choosing Robert Harris’ The Ghost, which is a wonderful book. But there were other novels equally good that year, to be honest. They just didn’t grip everyone in the same way.

Though there are many rumours within the industry about co-written thriller novels as well as fully ghosted thriller novels. So, I was amused to see that in these times of hardship for professional thriller-writers due to the economic crisis forcing cutbacks in conventional publishing; two thriller-writers are looking at ghosting as a method to augment their income, reports NPR today

When Grant Blackwood got out of the Navy in 1987, he decided he wanted to write thrillers. He knew it might be awhile before he could support himself by writing, but in the meantime he was willing to do whatever it took — including chopping wood and driving a limousine — to make his dream come true.

Twelve years later, Blackwood had his first novel published and figured he was home free. But he quickly learned that becoming a successful novelist is like a series of graduations with no guarantee of what happens afterward.

"You decide to sit down and write the book, and you do it — that's a little graduation. You finish the book — that's a little graduation. You find an agent, you find a publisher — that's another one," says Blackwood. "After going through all those hurdles, you think 'OK, I've made it. I've broken that last wall.' But the sad truth is you've only come up against a bigger wall."

That bigger wall is getting your book sold — and then selling the next one.
Jenny Siler, who also writes thrillers, got her career off to a great start when her first novel brought in a $150,000 advance.

"That enabled me to start writing professionally and support myself through my writing," says Siler. "[But] as time went on, my books became more literary and my advances became smaller."

Siler's most recent advance was $20,000, and though her husband also brings in money and they live modestly, that still isn't enough to support her, since it takes her between 12 and 18 months to write a book.

So both Siler and Blackwood have chosen to supplement their incomes by turning to ghostwriting.

For Blackwood, the decision came when the sales of his novels started dwindling. After his publisher turned down his fourth novel, Blackwood's editor promised he'd help him find work.

"It wasn't more than six months later when he called, and he said, 'I have this book. It's perfect for you. It's right up your alley, and we want to pay you for it,' " Blackwood says.

Read the full article here including an audio track

Note : Jenny Siler also writes under the name Alex Carr

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