“Ghost Writer” as a profession unfairly has a negative impression attached to it through no fault of the writer. Instead, a large segment of the population considers the person who hires the ghostwriter to be a cheat. In the case of non-fiction, the employer is considered lazy as in the case of a former President of the US publishing accounts of wartime experiences to an audience that largely believed the author was the President. In the case of fiction, the employer may be viewed as a clever business person but one claiming an unfair reputation as a writer. This is not the case with Natalie, our writer protagonist in Ghost Writer by Netta Newbound.
Natalie was facing writer’s block. As a successful writer of fourteen published novels, she had expectations of continued productivity. She was on a roll. She also felt an obligation to her editor, something her husband did not agree with. Steve felt the editor worked for Nat; struggling writers will love this point. To get past the writer’s block, Nat used many tools in the writer toolbox. Vary the time of writing, move a desk around to get a window view, use a different medium for writing (pen and pencil vs. electronic means), and the ultimately, just take a short break. Nothing Natalie tried worked but there was a surprising unintentional input. After taking a nap, she woke up to a completed handwritten chapter of a potential book. The ghostwriter had appeared, unpaid and unsolicited.
Ryan Coultard was the small-time journalist protagonist in Chapter One of the ghostly input. Natalie transcribed the handwritten input onto her iPad making minor editorial revisions. As expected, the appearance of such material became a central discussion point between Nat and Steve. Natalie appeared on a national chat show and confirmed she was writing a new novel based on character Ryan Coultard. She was quite surprised to receive a visit from police in her home wanting to question her about the disappearance of Ryan, a person Nat was sure existed only in her head and evidenced only by the appearance of almost three completed chapters after naps. Nat and Steve discussed this at length, once during a drive that did not go well. Just after the car crash but before the police arrived and while Nat was feeling woozy, Ryan addressed her and urged her to publish the book as soon as possible. Reality and Dream State are colliding.
It seems the crash was not an accident. Neither was a firebombing of her home. Or the kidnapping of her brother. The novella races on through a series of events to figure out what is going on. Can there be a rationalization of a story that involves otherworldly intervention in the real world? The reader can decide as various factions: the police, the bad guys, Nat and Steve, interact in a race to publish a novel that might hurt important people. How would the sourcing be verified?
This is an interesting short read, a novella, which can provide a good “downtime” quick read. Those facing writer’s block will like it. Fantasy fans will enjoy it. The writing is fast-paced. I think characters are as well developed as possible in such a short presentation. And there is a surprise ending. Watch for this. There is a point when you might think you have reached the conclusion of the novel. Read a bit further.