Authors who achieve success are often recognized for their unique and unmistakable voices. For instance, Jane Austen’s writing reflects a lighthearted affection for the British landed gentry, while Stephen King’s tone and characters are easily recognizable and relatable. However, it takes an entirely different set of skills to accurately capture someone else’s voice—a skill set that some renowned authors, with their own distinctive voices, have mastered. It might come as a surprise to discover that these well-known authors ventured into their ghostwriting services as well before establishing their own careers.
1- Sinclair Lewis
Sinclair Lewis, honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize in literature in 1930, achieved recognition for his incisive depiction of American culture in literary works such as Babbitt and Main Street. After completing his studies at Yale University, he sustained himself by selling plotlines to renowned author Jack London, who skillfully incorporated them into works like The Assassination Bureau and a collection of short stories. Lewis’s proficiency as a ghostwriter extended to a collaboration with Maurice McLoughlin, a prominent American tennis player, for whom he crafted the book Tennis as I Play It.
2- Katherine Anne Porter
After enduring a tumultuous relationship and surviving a harrowing battle with bronchitis that brought her to the brink of death, Katherine Anne Porter, a Texan by origin, discovered her white hair taking on a poignant significance, symbolizing her resilience in the face of adversity. In 1919, she made a significant move to Greenwich Village, where she not only penned captivating tales for children but also ventured into the realm of ghostwriting. One notable project in her ghostwriting repertoire was My Chinese Marriage, a publication that emerged in 1921 under the pseudonym Mai Tiam Franking. However, Porter’s true acclaim lay in her acclaimed works such as Pale Horse, Pale Rider, which garnered significant recognition. The pinnacle of her achievements arrived with the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, bestowed upon her for The Collected Stories, a masterful collection of vignettes intricately woven with elements from her Texan heritage.
3- H.P. Lovecraft
H.P. Lovecraft, a beloved figure among fans of horror, is widely recognized as the mastermind behind numerous timeless works in the realm of supernatural horror and science fiction. Lovecraft’s literary prowess gained significant acclaim when his captivating short stories, including the renowned “The Call of Cthulhu,” were acquired by the esteemed literary publication, Weird Tales.
Notably, Lovecraft’s exceptional talent captured the attention of J.C. Henneberger, the visionary behind Weird Tales, who commissioned him to ghostwrite an intriguing narrative titled Under the Pyramids, presenting an alleged firsthand account involving the renowned magician Harry Houdini. The quality of Lovecraft’s craftsmanship left a lasting impression on Houdini, leading to their subsequent collaboration, along with C.M. Eddy Jr., on The Cancer of Superstition—a profound exploration of superstitions throughout the annals of history. In a noteworthy turn of events, the manuscript for this remarkable piece was put up for auction in 2016 and ultimately sold for an impressive sum of $28,000.
4- Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette
During the early 1900s, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, a French writer, made a lasting impact by boldly challenging societal norms through her groundbreaking literary contributions. Perhaps you recognize her name from Keira Knightley’s portrayal of her in the 2018 biographical film, Colette. Colette’s early literary endeavors involved the creation of the Claudine series, a collection of partially autobiographical novels.
Interestingly, these novels were published under the name of her husband, Henry Gauthier-Villars. Despite her status as a prominent literary figure, Colette faced oppressive circumstances imposed by Gauthier-Villars, which involved confining her to their home and coercing her into writing. However, following their separation in 1906, Colette reclaimed her independence and embarked on a remarkable journey, producing notable works like Cherí and Gigi.
5- Richard Flanagan
Richard Flanagan, a renowned Australian writer celebrated for his work Gould’s Book of Fish, has demonstrated his versatility by venturing into political essays, literary fiction, and a collection of speeches. Notably, Flanagan took on the task of ghostwriting an autobiography for John Friedrich, an Australian criminal charged with defrauding the National Safety Council of Australia.
Despite Friedrich tragically ending his life three weeks into the project, Flanagan honored his commitment and completed the autobiography, titled Codename Iago, which was subsequently published posthumously. This ghostwriting experience served as a profound inspiration for Flanagan, evident in his recent novel First Person, a gripping thriller centered around a book publishers and his deceitful client.
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