A Week in the life of a ghostwriter
17 Jun 2014
Katy Weitz, one of Britain’s most successful ghosts, outlines a recent week in her life as a ghostwriter.
Monday Up at 4am to catch flight to Edinburgh to start interviewing Tressa Middleton for her memoir. I’ve been awake most of the night with my 4-year-old daughter who has chicken pox - not a great start. At Gatwick airport I hunker down in Garfunkel’s with a large coffee and reread our proposal. We’ve got four full days of interviewing lined up – it should be enough. We meet in a quiet corner of a hotel close to Tressa’s home at midday and finish up at around 5pm. I can barely keep my eyes open. At the B&B I get an email from my agent Andrew – he says the first part of the advance for this book should arrive in a week’s time. I take a call from a lady, Jennifer, who has read one of the books I ghosted, Little Drifters: Kathleen’s Story. She says it is very similar to her mother’s experiences. Her mum was in a Catholic orphanage in Ireland too and has battled depression ever since. They want to get her mum’s story published. Can I help? I ask her to send me something over to look at. Monday night – I transfer my digital recordings from the interviews to my computer and look over the social services reports Tressa has given me. It makes for difficult and depressing reading.
Tuesday Tressa is not a morning person so we’ve arranged to start interviewing at midday. It gives me a chance to catch up on some work. I write a piece for Andrew’s website on How We Work Together. The email from Jennifer arrives. It is beautiful, powerful and heartbreaking. We talk again and I ask for more material – I want to hear her side of the story. Meanwhile, I email Andrew for his advice. Interview with Tressa for the rest of the day. Harrowing and exhausting. She has brought me photos, letters and cards to look at – everything helps to build up a picture of her life. Amongst the papers, I find some of her pencil sketches – she’s a talented artist. At the end of the day I get an email from my editor at Ebury about our book Cellar Girl by Josefina Rivera – sales are spiking thanks to the release of the memoir by Ariel Castro victim MichelleKnight. We’re now selling nearly 300 ebooks a week. She also points out the lovely reviews on Amazon.
Wednesday Discuss new submission with Andrew – he agrees it sounds good but will there be interest? He emails a few editors to test the water. I walk up to an abandoned brickyard just outside of town. This forms the backdrop to a crucial scene in the book and I want to see it for myself. Mid-morning: Teena Lyons, who is writing a book about ghostwriting, interviews me on the phone. It feels strange at first being the subject of an interview but Teena is the consummate professional and immediately puts me at my ease. In fact, it’s rather nice to find out we have shared experiences. Tressa arrives at 12. 30pm and we get to work. Time flies past, as it always does during these sessions. At one stage, when she is telling me about signing the adoption papers for her little girl, I become very emotional. Tressa ends up comforting me. ‘But you lived it!’ I sniff, feeling embarrassed and silly. ‘Aye, and I’ve lived with it for a long time,’ she smiles. She is such a generous soul. Later in the afternoon we have confirmation from a handful of publishers that they are interested in seeing a proposal for Jennifer’s book. Andrew sends out the collaboration agreement. I speak to Jennifer and her mum Irene on the phone and they are both very excited. I am too – I love the start of the process. It’s so thrilling. The journey is often a long and difficult one but starting out is always an adventure. We arrange times for the initials interviews next week. The cover design for my new book The Devil on The Doorstep arrives – I’m gobsmacked. It is utterly brilliant. The author Annabelle Forest agrees the cover is fantastic. It’s great to see the book coming together now. Email the proofs to Andrew who has had film interest. Send my film treatment for Little Drifters to Film4 Productions. Well, you never know!
Thursday Check out of B&B. A novelist emails to see if I want to collaborate on her work. I’m flattered but sadly, I have to say no. Fiction isn’t my thing. Spend the rest of the day interviewing Tressa at a drop-in centre for recovering addicts. They are so welcoming and friendly and give us our own room to work in. We have a chance at the end of the day to be more reflective, to talk about her book and what kind of impact it may have on others. Still struggling for a title though – I suggest Girl Under Grey Skies but we agree it could be a little depressing. I want her to think about the artwork for the cover. She has real talent and it would be great if she could think up some designs herself. Saying goodbye is like leaving an old friend – lots of hugs. A train and bus takes me back to Edinburgh airport for a long delayed flight home. Get back at 1.30am.
Friday The documents for Jennifer’s book have arrived overnight so I start to look through these. It’s crucial to have all the proof and legal back up in place before starting any project. I transfer the last of my interviews with Tressa onto the computer then take the afternoon off to play with the kids in the paddling pool and enjoy the glorious sunshine.