Ghost Writing: Busted!

Hope everyone had a spooky Halloween! Today, we hear about ghost writing, music, and the adventures of childhood. Enjoy this week’s interview:

Tell us about yourself and your background.

My name is Karvy. I have a degree in music and spend most of my time either writing or immersed in Chopin. I am part of a collaboration called Karvy & Valor ( where I write and blog and compose. I am also writing my first novel under my own name.

You have recently worked as a ghost writer. What is your writing process for such a project? Do you think that the behind-the-scenes nature of this job lives up to its name?

I’m not sure how typical my ghostwriting experience was. At the beginning of the project, I was handed a 20-page outline that I was told I had 45 days to make it into a 200-page manuscript. It was a delicate balance between writing something solid and keeping the client happy. The original outline was pretty rough. It’s a miracle if you can make something readable out of what you are given. You have to field some pretty wince-worthy ideas and most of the time your employer won’t recognize what is readable and what is not. I wrote for an employer who admittedly ‘didn’t really read much of anything,’ and still hadn’t made it past chapter seven at the time of the book release.

After I won the writer’s confidence, they gave me an immense amount of freedom, and I changed the last half of the outline. This was actually my first time writing fiction, and I adored it. It was so fantastic to have an excuse to get to write as much as I wanted. I would set my alarm for 5:20am and work for 8 hours, go off and teach and come back and work another couple hours when I got home at night. It was so exhilarating to see it taking shape and that experience helped build my confidence as a new writer.

I was pretty happy with the finished book, but after I sent it to the client, he got jumpy and wanted more opinions. He sent it to two different freelance editors and a screenplay writer, and they all inserted themselves into it with more audacity than taste. The end result was unreadable and felt like seven people with very different personalities and styles all had a drunken stab at it.

The book found its way back to me, and it broke my heart a little bit. You can’t get attached to your work as a ghostwriter because someone else owns it and has the legal right to mangle it after it is submitted. The client hired me to rewrite it in the space of a week, which I did because I felt a sort of responsibility for the characters. He gave me a team of two fantastic editors. The finished product was beautiful, but then some potential legal issues came up with some of the studies and medical language and assumptions in the book. It concerned the editors and me more than it did the client. He offered us all credits in the book, which was pretty rare in the ghostwriting world, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t worth the risk of getting pulled into someone else’s legal battle, should someone decide to sue him.

I gained so much from the experience, especially in working with the professional editors; that being said, ghostwriting is not something I plan to do again. I was recently at the book release in San Francisco. I can’t explain how strange it is to hear someone pitching a book, that you wrote, as his own.

How has music influenced your writing or vice versa?

I’m a pretty emotional, serious person—always have been. When I was young, music was my form of expression, and I hardly wrote at all. There was little privacy in our house, so I rarely kept a journal or wrote anything down, or if I did, I would scratch it out, tear it into pieces, and throw it in five separate trash bins so no one could piece it back together. Music was safe because it was an anonymous release. In a household as big as mine was, I needed a place that was my own where I could express my feelings anonymously. I am a pianist and am drawn to the kind of music that has depth and grief. It is still a challenge for me to write honestly. I think my writing is catching up, but there is still a part of me that is conditioned to filter my work through the lens of whom I will or won’t offend, wanting to shield the people close to me, whereas music has no bounds. In a way, music is the perfect non-dualistic art form. It inspires a moving connection and empathy through its fluidity. I hope someday my writing can inspire that kind of empathy.

I am currently writing a novel that is pushing me towards vulnerability and transparency in ways I wouldn’t have believed possible. It has been an experience of growth, and sometimes, I feel amazed that I feel free enough to write it.

You also teach music lessons to children. Do you consider teaching a form of poetry? 

I think anything that sparks wonder can be a form of poetry. Most of the kids I work with  are young, 6 or 7. They come in and sit on the bench and tell me all about their adventures, and I just get to take it all in. I love the way they see the world, so much innocence and zest for life. They are so present because everything to them is exciting and new and worth discovering and paying attention to. It’s a much better way to see the world, don’t you think?

How do you define poetry?

Poetry is like music: it holds the world with metaphor. Another dimension by which to contemplate the human experience.


Featured Image:
“Hand in Smoke”:

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