The relationship between ghost writer and client is a subtle and delicate one. For the client, it’s not just a matter of finding someone who can write well, they have to be someone who can write like you sound. You have to be sure that when the text is finished, nobody would guess you hadn’t penned it yourself.
For the writer the trick is to find the right balance between intimacy and professionalism. Once someone starts telling you about their life – if you know how to listen – then ten to one they’ll be revealing aspects of themselves that sometimes even they didn’t know they had. There are sensitive areas in everyone’s life that have to be negotiated with tact, so it’s important that the client feels in control of the material at all times. This balance between encouraging intimacy and respecting privacy has to be carefully managed.
The most important aspect of ghost writing is that throughout the text the writer has to be transparent, yet ever present, hidden in the background, making the wheels of the narrative go round, but never imposing their own personality.
For me, it all boils down to trust. And magically, with my last client, fun.
I’ve ghosted a few memoirs now – of the famous and the infamous, and lovely people in between – but I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun ghosting a memoir as I did when I worked recently with Sir Michael Pickard. He has led a distinguished life; Chairman of the Docklands Development Corporation (a work for which he was knighted), founder of the Happy Eater, an accountant and company director to a host of prestigious companies.
We were, on the face of it, an unlikely team. He’s a whiz with money, I hanker after the days of Exchange and Barter. His political heroes were my villains, and my heroes gave him the heeby geebies. But we quickly found a rapport and a shared sense of fun.
He was a ghost writers dream – coming to every meeting thoroughly prepared for the session ahead, but letting me lure him down interesting little avenues of memories that had somehow got tucked away.
When he had read the final text and his beautiful leather bound books were finally delivered, he paid me the ghost writer’s ultimate compliment – “This sounds exactly like me.”
“Working with LifeLines Press was great fun. They did exactly what they promised. The books were beautifully produced. Very professional. We were delighted. I thoroughly recommend them.”
Sir Michael Pickard