by Jill Amadio*
Many authors need a day job until our books earn enough royalties and renown to quit working for someone else. One day job that grew and grew into an almost full-blown career for me began with a ghostwriting stint. It also led to writing my own mystery series.
I first turned into several alternate personae when a magazine editor informed me that a reader was looking for a ghostwriter to churn out a business book.
“A whole book? Impossible,” I said. “Too many words.”
“Imagine each chapter as an article,” she suggested. After she told me the average payment I was hooked.
Since then, I’ve ghostwritten more than a dozen memoirs, autobiographies, and business books that required transforming myself into a U.S. ambassador, a Las Vegas croupier, a Texas oilman, a Las Vegas taxicab fleet owner, a motivational speaker, a triathlete, and sundry others. I also ghosted two true crimes. For two of the books I was promoted to co-author half-way though.
Eventually a friend referred Jonathan to me to ghostwrite a crime novel. It turned out during my initial visit to his Beverly Hills mansion that he had always wanted a book with his name on it to display “right here,” he said, patting an enormous Italian marble coffee table. His dilemma was that he had no idea how to write. Reminded me of the time I was at an airport shop in Indonesia and picked up President Sukarno’s biography, a heavy red leather hardcover akin to a family Bible only to find it full of blank pages (he was still living at the time).
Initially, Jonathan envisioned a family drama about a typical insurance scam of which his father had been a victim. A little tame, I said, and persuaded him we should add a couple of murders to spice up the story. He agreed and said the characters must include his parents, two brothers, six ex-wives, four mistresses, and three daughters. I told him, No, no, far too many. I would take three wives, two mistresses, and two daughters, all the while struggling to explain to him that in the book they’d be fictional and would not resemble the real people. He stopped complaining when I asked which of his family he’d like to be the killer.
Occasionally during the writing my client threw a spanner into the works such as calling from Belize or Paris and asking me to add even more murders to the mix now he’d got into the swing of things. Luckily, he was pleased with the various twists and turns, especially when I included thugs from a Bel Air branch of the Russian Mafia (honestly, it really exists) as part of the plot. I gave the murderer my great-grandfather’s revered Scottish name for some inexplicable reason, honored Keats by sprinkling quotes throughout, and withheld adding Cornish cuss words although sorely tempted. Instead, I saved them for my mystery series that features a younger Miss Marple from Cornwall.
I enjoyed creating a fictional forensic accountant on someone else’s generous dime and planned to develop the book into a series. I had grown fond of the sleuth but Jonathan owns copyright so my brilliant idea died an early death.
An inveterate traveler on both business and pleasure, Jonathan was absent a lot. In fact, most of the time. He told me to basically just carry on, and he’d read the book after it was finished. As it turned out, he preferred me to read it aloud to him, which I did, leading to another unexpected part-time career in voice-over and narrating audiobooks.
Jonathan pronounced himself satisfied. But then he said his third daughter was going to be very upset that I’d left her out. He insisted on her inclusion. Fearing my final fee in jeopardy I had her join the Peace Corps in Chapter One and whisked her off to Somalia, never to be heard from again.
However, when it came time to querying agents Jonathan refused to spend longer than two weeks on the search and quickly self-published with an expensive hardcover POD press. For which I was grateful, nevertheless. Even though I had to watch him signing my book, my bank balance was healthy,
We soon had a book signing at Dutton’s. Jonathan was having a grand old time chatting to the two hundred or so friends and neighbors he’d invited to congratulate him. As his eyes kept darting to the door to see who was arriving I just knew he was hoping for a Hollywood producer, a director or an actor who’d slap an option offer on the table within the next three days. He’d begun to like this author thing. I decided to phone a film producer friend and invite him over to put Jonathan out of his misery.
“Hi, Brandon, how about coming along to a book signing right now? It’s not far from your place”.
“Who’s the author?”
“Oh, no one you know”.
“So why would I come?”
“Well, I wrote it”.
“Why didn’t you say it’s your book signing?”
He snorted and hung up.
Since then I have continued to ghostwrite books, present how-to workshops, and assist other writers in entering the field. In fact, Kelly James-Enger wrote a book on ghostwriting and spent weeks interviewing me. Happily, she credits me for each quote spread over five pages, and thanked me in the Acknowledgements.
I like helping someone realize their dream of creating a family history so that their descendants can learn of their heritage. The joy on their faces when they hold that published book in their hands almost matches my own.
My biography of a World War II pilot, “Gunther Rall: Fighter Ace and NATO General” was a bestseller and is an eBook on Amazon and Smashwords. I have ghostwritten 14 memoirs and other books for clients including a true crime and a thriller.
I co-authored the Rudy Vallee memoir, “My Vagabond Lover”
About the Author
Like Tosca Trevant, the amateur sleuth in her crime series, DIGGING TOO DEEP and DIGGING UP THE DEAD, Jill Amadio hails from Cornwall, UK. But she is nowhere near as grumpy or unwittingly hilarious as her main character, a younger Miss Marple. Jill wrote two true crimes, and ghostwrote a crime novel. She has written 14 biographies. She was a reporter in Spain, Thailand, Colombia and the United States. She wrote for Rolls-Royce Magazine, the London Sunday Dispatch, Conde Nast, the Los Angeles Times, the Westport News, and was a reporter and syndicated columnist for Gannett Newspapers in New York. For 12 years she wrote a column for Entrepreneur magazine. Jill writes a monthly column for the UK-based MysteryPeople ezine, and freelances for My Cornwall magazine.
Visit Jill Amadio at: jillamadiomysteries.com
Mystery books by Jill Amadio:
Digging Too Deep
Digging Up The Dead
*This article by Jill Amadia was posted by Jackie Houchin.