SURREAL ADVENTURES FROM THE SOUTH SANDWICH ISLANDS

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My life as a ghost writer (I)

The day after I woke up to the sound of my cell phone ringing:

- Hello.
- Lena?
–said an unknown voice-
- Sorry, wrong number. -I said-

I went back to bed. But I couldn’t sleep afterwards. A few seconds later the cell phone went again. I could hardly open my eyes.

- Hello. –I said-
- I’d like to speak to Lena Qinan. –said the same and vaguely familiar unknown voice-
- It’s not Lena, but Leni. Anyway… -I sighed- speaking.
- Hi. Ed Davies here.


I suddenly remembered. That was the editor who agreed to publish my novel with Hellgirl’s name! They guy who spoke to me through Bob’s laptop. I jumped on the bed.

- Oh, hi Ed. How are you? –I asked, trying to hide I had just woken up-
- I’ve read the stories you sent me.
- And what do you think?
–I said-
- They’re good. I’d like to meet you and talk about it.

Jeez… I was going to become a real writer!

- When? –I asked-
- Today at ten o’clock. I’ll see you at my office in Kynkybooks. The address is Main Alley and 5th; our ad can be easily seen from the street.
- Cool. I’ll be right there.

Kynkybooks was the leading publisher in the South Sandwich Islands. I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to be Hellgirl’s novel’s ghost writer. I had to pay off my debt to Hell’s minions. It was agreed with the editor. That poured cold water on my expectations to become a known writer. Same shit all the time.

Bob was slowly waking up beside me; he looked at me intrigued.

- So? –he asked-
- So what? –I asked back-
- Who was it?
- An editor from Kynkybooks.
- Wow, Kynkybooks! Are they going to publish your stories?

I couldn’t tell him much about that. He would think I was going insane. So more lies. White lies. I hate them, whatever their colour is.

- I e-mailed them some stuff a few days ago, and this one editor said he’d like to discuss what my chances of success would be if they ever published my book –I said, pretending to be enthusiastic about it-
- Hey that’s just great! I’m very proud of you!

I was in a rush, so I took a quick shower and had a coffee; Bob insisted on driving me downtown.

Kynkybook’s newly-built headquarters were located in a crystal skyscrapper in the very heart of town, where Ed Davies had his comfortable and sophisticated office.

I was greeted by a friendly receptionist, who escorted me to the impressive meeting room and offered coffee, tea or juice.

- Orange juice, please. –I said-

Ed Davies appeared from out of the blue.

- Lena?
- Leni.
–I said-

His little game was beginning to upset me.

- Oh, yes, Leni. This is Ed Davies. Pleased to meet you.

He looked at me from head to toe. We shook hands.

- Come in, please. And show me you’re not like those zillion amateur storytellers who think they’re brilliant just because they won their school contest. -he said-
- Oh I never won a single contest in my whole life.

I can’t deny I felt flattered. But he was in charge of supervising the progress of the promised novel, so he could very well be buttering me up to break the ice and push me to start working.

- So you’re gonna write that novel, right?
–he asked me-
- Yes.
- Ok. We basically need to focus on the marketing, then. I would target readers with a moderate to high purchasing power. What we need to sell is… a bit of sex, a dash of kinkiness, some violence, romance …

What???

- Stop. –I said harshly-
- Ok. Let’s hear your suggestions.
- Are you telling me what to write?
- Of course. It has to be a best seller. Or so I’ve been told.
- I don’t need you to tell me what my book has to say.
- Excuse me, but I think you don’t quite understand what I mean: Nowadays, you don’t take your books to the editor. It’s the editor who asks you to write a couple of trial chapters or a sketch on a subject agreed previously. If they’re good, then the book will continue to be written. If it’s bad, the project is over and kept in the round file. Nobody writes artisan books anymore.

I was gutted to hear that.

- Oh. –was all I could say, feeling terribly disenchanted-.

- Oh
–he said, smiling sarcastically-.
Let me invite a friend of yours to this meeting. He will confirm what I have just said.

He got up, picked up the phone and said: “Would you be as kind as to join us in the meeting room, please?” Some minutes later, a distinguished man entered the room.

- Nice to meet you again, Leni. My face is not familiar to you, but my skills will probably ring a bell. And I am already the Brotanian archduke I used to be.
- Oh, Percy! I’m so glad to hear that!

It was a little bit embarrassing. I really didn’t know what to say or do. That guy had been messing around inside my bra, yet I hesitated between shaking hands with him and hugging.

- Come here darling and give me a big hug!

So that was settled.

- Now tell me guys, what’s the problem? –asked Percy-
- She’s becoming a bit difficult. –said Ed-
- Hey!
–I protested-
- Leni, you made a deal with Hellgirl: she helped you get rid of the Orsinian girl so that you could keep Bob by your side and now you have to keep to the deal. You offered to write a novel and Hellgirl will be lending her name to the book. Ed agreed to be your publisher and he’s just giving you some ideas to put into motion. So please, be reasonable, do as he tells you and everything will be ok.
–said Percy-

So it meant that I would become a ghost writer and lose my freedom of expression.

I would have to forget my irrational and unconscious bursts of creativity and replace them with the editor guidelines.

I would be unable to dive into my wild imagination; to switch from real to virtual life; to design the limits of my bizarre stories.

My literary devices would be changed. Allegories, metaphors, paradoxes, rethorical techniques, poetic justice: all forbidden.

My beloved characters, based upon those men and women who touched my heart with their magical essence and triggered my sudden emotions would be put aside, along with their happiness and pains; the tears I wrote for them and cried with them; their lives and deaths.

My daydreams, my lucid dreams, my oneiric adventures and reveries: also forbidden.

Eccentricities, originalities, funny little ways and rarities; all these crazy ideas produced ceaselessly by my restless mind that I was so afraid to forget, would be useless.

All would be deleted and the magnificent gift of creativity killed in me, reduced to zero; nil; nought; zilch; NADA.

So this was what becoming a ghost writer meant. I made a deal with the devil, so tough shit.

- Ok. Let me… give it a thought. –I said, very disappointed-

I couldn’t help the small whimper that escaped my mouth.

- Good. Please call me with your answer
–he said, giving me his business card-
- Bye Leni. Take care.
–said Percy-

Percy looked so strange in his new look.

- Bye Percy. It’s been a pleasure to meet… again.
- Goodbye Len!
–said Ed-

I turned round and faced him, very annoyed.

- That’s not my name. Don’t call me Len, but Leni. Please.
- But your boyfriend calls you Len.
- How do you know that? How do you even know I have a boyfriend? And what do you care?
- I know a lot about you.
- Lucky you! And don’t call me Len! That’s only between my boyfriend and me! And you, Percy… you were so funny when you were a tiny red demon! Now you’re nothing but a crashing bore!

I dashed out slamming the door behind me.




"Mr. Writer" (Stereophonics)

13 comments:

s said...

Ugh ... it was all going so fine, and now this ... Of course you have no choice, well you do actually, but your soul is yours and not Hellgirls, so yes, you really do not have a choice.

A ghost writer, doing the hard work and hellgirl will take the credits. Please tell me the deal was just one book, not a whole collection.
Now that i think about it, maybe its not a big problem. You cant write about the personal things and in a way you used to do, so basically its going to be book that doesnt have your essence or your soul in it. That means it wont be yours in a way. Better this than a book that came from your heart and it turned out to be a best seller, with hellgirls name on it. That would really suck. Atleast this way you will have your real writings for the future, published under your own name.

I hope i make sense :)

You can do it Len (Len heheh), i have faith in you!

Leni Qinan said...

Yes, Mocky, it makes a lot of sense and I really appreciate your suggestions.

I never sold my soul to Hellgirl, you're right, but I have a debt to pay off. But one thing i never wrote in the blog is that Bob was worth it. :) and I wouldn't hesitate doing it again.

But, I can tell you that the deal was only one book -otherwise it could be murder!-.

I may write my book with a bit less soul and faith than I ususally put in everything i write, but... Hellgirl is no daft kid, Mocky. She won't accept less than a masterpiece, I guess.

So yes, I have a problem. On top of it: I may write the book, but forcing me to write about specific subjects won't work. Inspiration and imagination are basically free and I am totally against setting limits to the works of my imagination.

I may have to negotiate some conditions with these guys from hell

Ugh ... it was all going so fine, and now this ... Of course you have no choice, well you do actually, but your soul is yours and not Hellgirls, so yes, you really do not have a choice.

We'll see. Thanks a lot for your support, Mocky. I really appreciate.

Len.:)

max said...

Wow Leni,

I'm afraid you're between a rock and a hard place this time.

You agreed to become a ghost writer... and if my memory serves me well, you even offered to write that book. This is what making a deal with the devil is like. You have to pay then.

This story sounds a bit terrible to me. It shows well you're not at all comfortable with the editor's requests. Maybe you should negotiate to recover your freedom of expression (just a suggestion). They should understand that.

Take care, though. I don't trust that guy. Ed Davies.

XXX. Max.


PS.- Percy sounds like a real sucker now. He's deadly boring.
He was much better when he farted, burped while we watched the soccer match at my place. :(

Leni Qinan said...

Hey Max!

Yeah it's a difficult situation.
It's shit to be a ghost writer, but the worst of all is not to be able to write whatever you want.

I'm ready to pay my debt -I gace Hellgirl my word for it- but I'd like to be free to choose the subject and the characters. That's important.

I take your advice and will speak to the editor to negotiate.

Percy is a real jerk now. Dull as can be. I don't like him anymore.

XXX. Leni. :)

tom909 said...

Leni, there is more truth in this story than maybe you realise - to get a book published you do have to sell your soul to the devil, that's how it works in the real world I'm afraid.
To write your own real book and get that published - well, it is going to have to be very good indeed. I have to say though LQ, this story you are writing here is pretty impressive.
And as for Ed Davies, well, as max suggests, he may just be the kind of bloke you can negotiate with - yuk, surely not even having a book published is worth that!

Leni Qinan said...

Hi Tom! Nice to see you back!

Hehehe, I know very well there's a lot of truth in this story. I've been told about the process of publishing books and what an ordeal it can be for a writer and to be honest, I'm very discouraged about that. Anyway, there's the internet and the copyrights and all that.

I can't deny I envy all these guys who have become famous writers, but I’m overwhelmed with stuff like contests, editors who would burn unrequested books, personal editions and all that hassle.
I won’t sell my soul to the devil to publish a book. But I pay my debts.

I love to hear you liked this story. I knew you were walkabout but I expected you would be back soon and pop up here some day.
I am going to negotiate with Ed Davies, definitely. He’s been a bit bossy and pushy and I didn’t like that at all. But we’ll see.

XXX.

Grass said...

I agree with Tom sis.. That's how it is nowadays.. I remember a friend of mine who is a writer for a TV station here in the Philippines complained to me that one of the producers of Telenovelas scrap their script everytime it doesn't appeal to her taste. But she can't do anything about it, she made a deal with her, the devil.. :(

I know your artistic side will be shot because you don't have freedom at all while writing Hellgirl's novel but I believe you can do it sis.. I believe that with the limitations imposed on you, you will still be able to write something that's bound to be a bestseller, even if it won't be published under your name..Sigh...

You're right: I like the old Percy. .. except of course when he's farting! yikes! hehehe

Sorry it took me a while to comment, I was out on field for 2 days.. :-)


xxx

SpanishGoth said...

But you could get out of the deal by saying you were a 'real' ghost writer and ghosts can't hold pens or stuff.

Alternatively, you could write some complete bollocks and call it 'The Burble' where silly people with big beards talk shite and they have speed boats with animals that can't swim and stuff

Leni Qinan said...

Hi sis!

No worries, I thought you would be doing some field work, but yes, I missed you -the guys are great, but I missed you!- it's nice to see you're around again!

Well, Tom knows very well what he's talking about! And he always gives excellent advice and support. :)

But the story of your friend confirms that there's no such thing as total freedom of expression when literary rights are concerned (well prolly for Stephen King or Doris Lessing, but not for new writers)
-and here I include script writers; I am a regular consumer of TV series (I don't watch much TV, but I like some series and some script writers are genius!-.

It's a shame that Donn is not around 'cos he is into TV production and he could tell us more about this.

Aww sis, I really appreciate your support here -my artistic side- it won't be shot, I promise. I am writing a list of conditions to talk to the editor and I hope he accepts them.

About Percy... I hope he fucks up soon and Hellgirl takes him back to his previous state, haha!

XXX.

Leni Qinan said...

Hi Goth!

((I'm late fer werk, allow me a couple of hours and I'll be back to you)).

In the meantime... my quote for the day: "El misterio es la mitad de la belleza".

Safe paths, Goth. ;)

Leni Qinan said...

Back again Goth,

It's great to see you can -not hold a pen, but type!-

I really appreciate your suggestions. I'm afraid the plot you talk about is already registered as the script of John Boorman’s 'Deliverance' or maybe it’s a Zztop concert on a swimming pool -silly hicks with big beards talking shite on speed boats w/animals that can't swim-.
What have you been smoking? :D

(*dies of laughter while almost spilling her morning coffee on her skirt*)

Grass said...

You're right about some scriptwriters and their geniuses! Look at some american tv series such as House,M.D., Numb3rs, Grey's Anatomy, Friends (they are the few favorites obviously,hehe).. :-)

Why don't you write some script materials? I mean you're good and maybe you can try writing some? Plays, for TV etc..:-) You're quite witty and imaginative, I'm sure you can do it. Anyway, it's just a suggestion. :D


xxx

Leni Qinan said...

Aww sis, you're always most kind to me!

I really think script writers are very clever people -they must be creative, fast and very witty-. The US TV series are written by teams of script writers -big mess during the last strike, but I hope they got what they asked for, cos the success of the show lies on their work to a large extent-.

I really appreciate your suggestion, sis. I think I prefer to write stories -these are my favorite- or short novels. I already worked for a TV channel with Big Cheese some years ago -no, I wasn't the weather girl, haha!- and it was fun, but the TV world is a bit crazy and chaotic for my taste. (My experience).

Anyway, as a natural born fighter I can tell you I won't stop trying. For the moment I am quite happy with the blog, and it keeps me actively writing and getting some readership -and this is the best!-

XXX.