There is so much more ghostwriting being done since I began writing V.C. Andrews over 32 years ago. Recently PW reviewed The Silhouette Girl, and the review ended with “Andrews fans should be satisfied.” What greater compliment could a ghostwriter receive? He or she is keeping the style, treatment, characters, and plot concepts authentic enough for the fan base to support the title.
But what is ghostwriting? What is required? When my agent, Anita Diamant, who represented Andrews, proposed I try to keep the books alive, I studied every published Andrews novel to capture her essence, syntax, vocabulary, and unique approach to character. I picked up on how she used dialogue, setting, and surprise.
When I first began the assignment, I was writing far more graphic novels under my own name, the highlight being The Devil’s Advocate, which became a major motion picture. At one point, I actually wrote on two different computers to embed the differences in writing for Andrews and my other writing work and in a sense became multipersonality.
Writing from the POV of a young girl wasn’t alien to me. My first published novel, Sisters, released by Stein and Day, was from the point of view of a young woman. I love using the line from Shakespeare in Love when asked how I can do that: “It’s a mystery.” In a sense it is, but there really isn’t a big mystery to successful ghostwriting.
You literally need to absorb everything the writer wrote and become a good mimic. You have to be able to subordinate your instinct to change it, and when you arrive at a story line, you have to question whether it is something the writer would have thought of or found intriguing. You also have to imagine, based on what you know, what would intrigue the writer if he or she had gone on. For that you might very well have to get into the writer’s life, learn as much as you can about what forces developed his or her talent and respect them.
After a while, if you’re successful, you won’t feel you’re mimicking. You’ll feel it’s you, especially if, like me, you’ve done it for over 32 years. And then the pride will sink in and the ambition will double. You now have an obligation to keep the writer alive. You will try harder to get film adaptations. And that is just what I did.
I wrote a script to adapt Rain, and it was produced with Faye Dunaway, Robert Loggia, and Brooklyn Sudano (Donna Summers’s daughter) in the featured roles. I pounded the pavement with producer Dan Angel in Hollywood, and we generated what became 10 straight Andrews films at the Lifetime Network, with potential for more in the works. And I’ve revived Flowers in the Attic with more novel sequels, the current one being Beneath the Attic, branching out among the secondary characters and family history—the family being the notorious Foxworths. Because I was a director of dramatics and had published plays, I considered Flowers in the Attic for the stage, and now a stage play is in development.
There are a few personal factors that have made this possible and successful. I taught film studies for more than 20 years and had a deep understanding of film adaptations of novels. Getting The Devil’s Advocate and eight additional titles adapted familiarized me with the Hollywood machine. Pitching an Andrews story was more complicated because it was ghostwritten, but now that there are more than 146 million copies of books in the series in circulation (print copies plus e-book sales) and at least one title has been published in just about every country that has a publisher, including China, I had more opportunity and motivation to find film opportunities.
It’s very exciting when it works, and to make it work, you have to have had the cooperation and support of your publisher. The Andrews novels have outlasted a few publishers, but everyone who assumed the mantle joined in the effort until we are where we are today, still successfully publishing 40 years after Flowers in the Attic was released and took and the world market by storm.
Ghostwriting is definitely an art form; it has its own rules and methods. After a while, you’ll look at your work and yourself and think, I’m a ghost who gives life to history.
Andrew Neiderman’s next two V.C. Andrews novels, Out of the Attic (Feb.) and Shadows of Foxworth (June), will continue the history of the Foxworth family.