AUTHENTICITY -PART 2
The whole truth…
Why do you write?
Who is your audience?
As a new author, I was doing research on book signings and book release events. My friend and “research partner” Pammy and I entered the doors to The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona as wide-eyed, innocent information gatherers. Both of us are “lovers of books” and could hardly wait for this day. With its shelves laden with adventures, mysteries and thrills, the excitement we felt at experiencing a new bookstore was palpable. The chairs were set in rows and the two empty seats in front of the rows captivated our attention. Yet, what we learned that day paralleled the day my sister and I found out about Santa Claus; catapulting us out of our innocence and into a harsher new existence.
Barbara Peters, the owner of The Poisoned Pen, the “emcee” for the event and a lawyer by trade, had no issue with sharing her knowledge with everyone. She and the author of “Going, Going, Ganache” (a cupcake mystery) by Jenn McKinlay had a very open discussion about Jenn’s book, her fun characters, the cheeky titles of her books, her genres and her journey as an author, librarian and mother. The discussion turned to publishers and talk began about “ghost writing.”
Up to that point, I thought ghost writing was simply when a person hires someone to write down their words for them or when someone who hasn’t yet embraced their “author-hood” writes under a different name. (–Like when Stephen King began his writing as Richard Bachman.)
Ignorance is bliss.
I had no idea that publishers will hire writers who can most similarly write like other authors (i.e., Clive Cussler) and thus mass produce more books (at a cheaper rate) and still sell it as a Clive Cussler novel. (Notice that now the Clive Cussler novels will acknowledge the additional writer!) Yet, this was the truth that was shared so openly. I felt like the new kid in junior high English who appeared to be the only one in the class that had the wrong answer and was trying to hide this fact from the teacher and the other students while reviewing homework answers.
I dared not look around to see if others had the same shock I was feeling for fear of giving away that I had no idea this happened. I refused to look at Jenn and the owner. I tried to steady my breathing, I glanced at the book shelves that overflowed with hundreds and thousands of books; the hard work of hundreds of authors filled this room—or did it? This new truth seemed to howl out at me like open mouthed skulls screaming out from the valley of the shadows of death.
To me, this isn’t ghost writing but more along the lines of the forgers and frauds. Truth be told (by these two people “in the business,”) it happens more than you would guess.
Like a well taught liar, deliver enough of a truth and it seems entirely plausible.
Is this slippery concept of authenticity really something all writers strive for? Or is it just a dead idea?
And yet, it seemed to make sense.
This is America. We like to mass produce things. We like to sell things and create them as cheaply as we can. The good old All-American dollar. All of a sudden I didn’t feel so bad for taking nearly two years to get my first book written and published. If these other writers have a staff of others cranking out titles for them (for the publisher,) then what harm does this really do to me? I had to rely on the other theory that there MUST be other good and decent, talented authors who refuse to let another writer take on their name and write THEIR stories.
My friend and I departed the doorway of The Poisoned Pen, stumbling into the harsh noon sunlight of the Sonoran desert radiating off the black asphalt. Our innocent endeavor forced our eyes to open into a new, scorching reality.
“Did you know that about writers?” She looked at me sideways as we approached the car.
My mouth still agape, “No idea. They talked like everyone knew?”
“I KNOW! And I felt totally stupid.”
“Me too! But now I’m kinda pissed…”
We drove in silence as we digested this new information.
I remembered reading that when commercial airlines first took off, the barf bags were used all the time. It would seem that people do, quite literally, have a tough time digesting and adjusting to new ideas and new things. As more and more people took more and more flights, the barf bag use declined quite measurably. Fly now and the bags are so rarely used and rarely even found on a flight.
I felt like I needed a barf bag.
Yet, as I chew on this new idea, tossing it around my taste buds, I am learning and experiencing a new flavor. When I wrote my first “piece” and put it out there, I didn’t want to take credit for it. I didn’t want my name on it. In “Masters of the Mountains,” my name is found nowhere. I was simply the author included in the telling of that tale of Jim King’s Paradigm Racing Team. I didn’t want my name in there because of who I was writing for and because of the purpose behind that book.
When I saw the beauty of the photo of Central Park (see Part 1), and witnessed the ideas morphed by Heidi Rosner for The River for the cover of my book “grace,” they both show the truth of the beauty of the places.
And, as I thought more and more about my purposes for writing and who I write for, I realized that I would be okay with the title of “ghost writer.” I could handle the criticism of others who might call me a fraud, a forger, (ha ha—like I will ever be) a-“mass producer!” Whatever anyone wants to call it–If you are doing what you love then I believe you only have to ask yourself this question:
Who are you writing for?
I need only to read Hebrews 12:2 to remind myself who I “ghost write” for:
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” King James Version (KJV)
When I digested my own truth of who I write for, the bitter taste evaporated and was replaced with sweetness. There is only One that I write for; only One I have to satisfy with the words He has given me. Bottom line—Aren’t we are all ghost writers?–filling pages with the authentic, genuine reality of what the ultimate Creator has given us? We become the translators of our experiences; sifting the golden perfection through our wiry sieve of life. We are those made in His image and made to be the reflectors of His light; those made to have life abundantly and to tell those stories, worthy of an audience of One.