Ask the Authors: From Ghostwriter to Mystery Writer with Eva Shaw

Ask the Authors, Tips, Writing

There are many ways to go about writing a book. Whether you outline or sit down with a blank page, write it yourself or hire someone else to write it for you, you have options. Eva Shaw got her start by sitting with others and learning how to tell their story. This process is called ghostwriting, and as Eva says, “As a ghost writer, if I’m invisible to the reader…I’ve done a good job.”

More than just a career, her ghostwriting gave her friends and insight, and helped prepare her to write the novels you love.

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As a ghostwriter, if I’m invisible to the reader who can focus on the story or memoir, then I’ve done a good job.

Over the years, ghostwriting has helped me hone the craft of writing, bringing people and characters to life. Each ghostwriting client must have their distinctive “voice.” It’s that quality that must shine in the books I craft for them.

Ghostwriting isn’t for every writer and egos must be left at the door. Yet, it’s exciting, challenging, and lucrative. I’m excited by every client and every story I get to write.

As a ghost, and much like an actor, I’ve “become” the orphaned daughter of a ruthless Nazi SS officer, whose shocking life story mirrors that of Anne Frank; a rags-to-riches movie tycoon; the dean of a prestigious Historical Black University; many internationally known celebrities; a fitness expert to the stars; a fabulous Paris-based bridal designer; a hermit who was stalked throughout the country; a philanthropic “giant” in the business world and close to 100 other incredible individuals.

This career has been a gift and I feel blessed to have entered each of my clients’ worlds and been privy to their lives, families, and secrets. Doing so has opened doors beyond my expectations and fostered inspiration for my own novels.

Since the early 2000s, I have been a frequent visitor to New Orleans and over the years have written for three incredible individuals, completing five books. While working as their ghostwriter, I gobbled up the rich history, incredible music, scrumptious food and flourishing culture of this magical city. Because of my work with these clients, I was included in galas, parties, homelife and friendship few visitors could ever know, and I was introduced to people whose names are recognized around the globe. I have loved every second of it.

This “education” brought authenticity to that book and I’ve even based some characters on people I met in the city. I know the locations I’ve included, like French Quarter. When I describe the best gumbo or beignets, it’s because I’ve had them. I wrote about the bluesy Dixieland jazz pouring out of clubs and bars there because I heard it. I experienced these things while working as a ghostwriter and weaved the primary research into the plot of my novel.

Once I began fleshing out what would become The Seer, the first in the Beatrix Patterson historical mystery series, and as the characters took on lives of their own, it became clear that the city would be the backdrop. As you have noticed in thrillers and mysteries, the location is critical to the plot, almost as if it were another character. New Orleans was (and still is) pulsating with life. There’s an opulent side and a gritty one. That was especially true in World War II, when it was a huge transportation hub, crucial to the war effort. The US feared Nazi invasion up the Mississippi and spotted U-boats patrolling the Caribbean. People were frightened and untrusting, and this made New Orleans’ larger-than-life personality nearly a villain in the plot. The Seer could not have taken place anywhere except for the Big Easy.

In the sequel, The Finder, the characters now reside in Santa Barbara, my childhood hometown. Even though I live in Carlsbad, California, I know this coastal city well and visit often. Hence, the history, culture, architecture, and geography of Santa Barbara play a huge role in The Finder. The city becomes a subplot of the books struggling with racism, class distinction, murder, cults, and kidnappings. Oh, and full disclosure: If someone offers you a “special” tea, do not drink it.

Now concocting the third mystery, in the embryotic stage, I am planning to throw my recurring characters into a bohemian artists’ colony where today’s big-name stars and a few royals live.

Watch out Beatrix and Thomas, danger and mayhem are just around the corner.

 

EVA SHAW, Ph.D., is a ghostwriter and author of The Seer and The Finder. She lives in Carlsbad CA with her rambunctious Welsh terrier Coco Rose. Find out more about Eva and the causes she supports at www.evashaw.com.

Learn more about Eva and her books here.

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