October 28, 2013

What’s it like to be a ghostwriter? V.C. Andrews’s longtime ghostwriter tells all.

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Garden of Shadows was the first V.C. Andrews novel that Andrew Neiderman completed as her ghostwriter.

Under his own name, Andrew Neiderman is probably best known for writing the novel The Devil’s Advocate, which itself is better known as the 1997 film version. But as Rachel Martin reports for NPR’s Weekend Edition, he has a more extensive bibliography to his credit, having become the ghostwriter for Flowers in the Attic author V.C. Andrews after her death in 1986.

Neiderman never actually met Andrews, but he has worked with members of her family, since her estate owns the franchise of her characters and their stories. As he explains to Martin, his wife was interested in her gothic tales long before he was, and it was his agent (who also represented Andrews) who asked him to step in and finish a novel that Andrews wouldn’t be able to finish due to her failing health. Neiderman had developed a talent for mimicking other writers’ voices in college, when he tried to emulate William Faulkner, so he accepted the task of completing Garden of Shadows, a prequel about the grandparents from the Dollanganger series, which kicked off with Flowers in the Attic.

Neiderman discusses the challenges of stepping into another writer’s shoes, particularly a female author with a considerable audience of adolescent girls. For one thing, he used to use two different computers to switch between Andrews books and his own. “Grabbing the female point of view is always a challenge,” he tells Martin, “I rely on my wife for a lot of details… I have granddaughters now, and I’m always using them, asking them their expressions and what they’re wearing, and what’s important to them.”

He recounts an anecdote about being interviewed for a local TV morning show in New Orleans, where the first question was about how he captures the female voice. Neiderman, annoyed and nervous after waiting in the green room without any preparation before the last second, responded, “‘Well, in the morning, I put on my wife’s nightgown and high-heeled shoes and start to type.’ She looked at me like she had a lunatic on the show.”

In addition to Garden of Shadows, Neiderman completed Andrews’s unfinished Fallen Hearts, and wrote two more novels “inspired” by her—Gates of Paradise and Web of Dreams—going on to write several other series that were attributed to the late Andrews, right up to The Forbidden Sister, published earlier this year.

 

Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.

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