by Cynthia Chow
& Lorna Collins
As we continue our month of mystery novels with a supernatural twist in honor of Halloween, this week we not only have a review of Ghost Writer by Lorna Collins, but also we have another fun guest post to go with it by Lorna Collins where she shares where she gets her ideas from. At the end of this post are details on how to enter to win a copy of the book & how to purchase it from Mysterious Galaxy which not only helps an indie bookstore, but helps support KRL!
Ghost Writer by Lorna Collins
Review by Cynthnia Chow
Ghost Writer takes its title literally, as a deceased women’s fiction writer guides, nags, and ultimately haunts a woman into co-authoring the last piece of fiction he would ever create under the nom de plume, Maxine DuBois. Whether his collaborator ever even wanted to write the novel is another matter entirely.
With life at its lowest for Nan Burton, the death of her great aunt couldn’t come at a better time. It may seem like a callous attitude, but having lost her banking job, her mooching boyfriend, and forced into sleeping on her parents’ couch, an inheritance from the spinster aunt she barely knew represents a possible windfall Nan could definitely use. Unfortunately, the will comes with strings; Nan won’t inherit anything until she’s at least thirty, and she must become the appointed caretaker of Mitzi as well, a Shih Tzu whose continual good health will determine whether or not Nan will ever receive her final inheritance.
When Nan attempts to move in the beach house that is her other temporary inheritance, she immediately discovers that a previous owner, Max Murdoch, continues to haunt the home with the goal of forcing Nan into completing his last work-in-progress of women’s fiction. While Nan at first petulantly responds by sleeping on the beach and away from Max’s nagging “boo-ing” moans, she eventually concedes to his wishes and slowly attempts to recreate and modernize the sexist, elitist, and out-of-date writing. With the help of Max’s former secretary and his publisher’s son, Nan and Max both mature and grow into becoming less self-indulgent, self-centered beings.
Once the reader gets past Nan’s rather blasé reaction at encountering a ghost (which has her neither questioning her own sanity nor running screaming for an exorcist, both completely understandable reactions), the novel settles into a thoroughly enjoyable study of a young woman’s growth and maturity. Nan reacts like a twenty-something young woman who has been indulged by her parents and who continually falls for beautiful but shallow men. However, she soon learns to stop relying on her parents and instead accepts help from real friends and even from Max. He exists as a real character as well and evolves from being a horribly demanding and selfish entity into someone who expresses regret over the mistakes he made in his life.
The more I took the time to enjoy Nan’s experiences the more I found myself enjoying what is a truly entertaining and unique novel. As Max himself states, this is neither a mystery nor a romance, but women’s fiction, where one asks, “What happens next?” and “How will it end?” Max provides advice to Nan as well on how to write a novel, sprinkling in hints about catches and hooks and creating characters a reader will care about.
Collins herself does an excellent job at writing Nan and Max as completely believable characters who are flawed and at times irritating, but who grow and evolve into becoming very sympathetic and likable. Nan slowly learns to make the wisest decisions for her life, ones she would not have made at the beginning of the novel. Overall, this is a very rewarding read with an extremely satisfying conclusion.
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Where Do You Get the Ideas For Your Books?
By Lorna Collins
I’m frequently asked this question, and the answer is: Various places.
My newest book, Ghost Writer, began on a drive home from work one day. My husband, Larry, and I were carpooling at the time and heard a story about a ghost writer on the radio. My author’s brain suddenly went to that strange and rarified place where ideas are born. The question suddenly came to me: What if the writer actually was a ghost?
My inner writer answered, “Why not? What would that situation be like? Where would the ghost have lived?”
We were driving on Pacific Coast Highway near Laguna Beach, and it occurred to me that it would make a great setting. We’re both natives of California and have always loved this area of Orange County.
When I began thinking about the ghost himself, I had a vision of the curmudgeons Clifton Webb often used to play. They were annoying and self-centered, but there was also something charming and old-worldly about them as well.
I had recently lost my own job in Information Technology for a bank that failed, and that seemed like the perfect setup for my protagonist, Nan Burton. Her feelings were very easy to capture since they were my own.
I was aware that the old-fashioned beach cottages were rather quickly disappearing, and I have always loved them. The story gave me a chance to try to save one—at least in fiction.
Some of the other characters in the book were easy to create. Larry is a long-time surfer, and he still goes out every weekday morning at dawn. I’ve observed surfers for many, many years, so writing that aspect of the book was easy.
Of course, the sections about the art and craft of writing itself was second nature since Larry and I have presented several workshops on various aspects of the subject to writers’ conferences for a number of years.
Sometimes all the elements just come together organically. That’s what happened with this book. I began with the framework and then let the characters tell me the rest. I just listened to their voices and wrote their story.
Oh, you want to know about the voices? Well, that’s another story altogether.
To enter to win a copy of Ghost Writer, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Ghost”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 27, 2012. U.S. residents only.