Interview With a Ghostwriter

This week on The Splendid Table Lynne Rossetto Kasper interviews JJ Goode, a ghostwriter for cookbooks. It’s a great little interview, and a great peek into the craft of that particular art.

Gwyneth Paltrow last month was up in a huff because it was “revealed” she’d had a ghostwriter for her own cookbook, My Father’s Daughter. It’s an odd, petty huff; not only does it belittle the ghostwriter, but it bespeaks a petty sort of pride. No one really expects a celebrity (or for that matter a full-time chef) to write his or her own book. A lot of people don’t write their own books, and that’s fine. Ghostwriting is one of those open secrets everyone is OK with, because if people with ghostwritten books had actually written their own books, they would be awful and unreadable.

I worked for several months at a non-profit and frequently ghostwrote for the organization’s director. As a job it’s largely thankless, but the biggest complaint I ever got was that a letter to a bishop was “too formal” and didn’t sound like the director. That was the trick: Find the director’s voice, and just go with it. I’d spend five to ten minutes each month chatting with the boss, write down a few specific phrases, and go with it.

As an art I found ghostwriting (in my limited experience) surprisingly rewarding; I definitely envy Goode’s work, if for no other reason than I’d love to hang out with Masaharu Morimoto.

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