Interview with Non-Fiction Writers: Andrea Robinson

Andrea RobinsonName: Andrea Robinson

Writing: Ghostwriter

Location: Blackpool

Kim: What is ghostwriting?

Andrea: Ghostwriting is when a person writes material for someone else who is named as the author. Sometimes the ghostwriter is acknowledged and sometimes not.

There may be an overlap between ghostwriting and co-writing. This is where a writer writes jointly or in collaboration with another author.

Kim: What books have you ghostwritten?

Andrea: I’ve written two on behalf of a man called Gram Seed which are available on Amazon: ‘One Step Beyond: One man’s journey from near death to new life’, andIt Must Be Love: The journey continues…’

I’ve just finished working on ‘The Monster Within’ about Brian Greenaway (to be published in May by CWR), which is a sequel to his bestseller ‘Hell’s Angel’ and I am about to start a private commission for a businessman who wants a record of his life for current and future generations.

Kim: Who might use a ghostwriter?

Andrea: People who do not have the time or ability to write. For example a famous person.

Kim: How much of the material would you write?

Andrea: This varies, depending on who you are writing for. You may write it all, from scratch or the person may have already written some which you have to amend and add to.

For Brian Greenaway’s second book he had written a sizeable amount of the material. However a lot overlapped with the first book, so I edited that and then interviewed him several times to get material for the rest of the book.

Kim: Do you have to write as if you are them?

Andrea: Yes, as it needs to capture their essence. However you also need to strike a balance so that it is readable and interesting and also sounds like them.

You have to think ‘How would they express this?’ and use words or phrases they would use.

It is possible to use fiction skills to make the material sound interesting and intriguing. However I have to be careful that I don’t make the writing so dramatic that it doesn’t sound real.

It’s important to build rapport with the person you are writing for, as you need to get to the point where it’s not just facts you are expressing, but also the emotion behind the facts. Building up trust with the person will allow them to give of their best. Remember that they are probably not a writer and so may not explain things in a way that a writer would, so you need to be patient, stimulate their thoughts and memories and find the nuggets in there.

Kim: What are the challenges?

Andrea: Sometimes people know what they want to say but find it hard to express, and I have to push for clarification.

Sometimes they use words or phrases that readers may not understand, for example ‘doing bird’ which means ‘doing time’ (in prison), and I have to keep the flavour of what they say whilst making it understandable to the audience.

Kim: What are the benefits?

Andrea: The money!

But also being able to feel you have helped someone get their message across. Also when they are pleased that you have made the writing sound like they have written it.

In addition I see it as training ground for writing my own books.

Kim: What is the process?

Andrea: First I research the person so I can familiarise myself with their story.

Then I interview them, usually in stages if it is a long project. I use a digital voice recorder rather than taking notes so that I can focus on the interview.

I transcribe each interview as I go along, simplifying the information, editing it and putting it in order. The person may jump backwards and forwards in time as they recount their story.

I do a mopping up interview session to tie up the pieces later on, and leave any challenging questions until this time, when they have become comfy with me.

I work out how many chapters there are and carefully write the beginning and end of each chapter to make them into page turners.

When I’ve done as much as I can I give it to the person to check. This will probably trigger further memories so I will add in the extra information.

For the editing, if the book is self-published I will do it, or if it is being published, the publisher will organise this.

The edited material is then given to both me and the person for proofreading.

A publisher may ask for suggestions for the cover, foreword and back page… and then I’ve had enough!

Kim: How long is the process?

Andrea: This will vary. I have around six months to do the research and writing. It is then a further six months until the book is out in the shops.

Kim: How are you paid?

Andrea: I agree the amount and get half on signing the contract and the remaining half on handing over the manuscript.

It is also possible to negotiate a proportion of the royalties.

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