"What do you do?" the farmer asked me.
"I'm a ghostwriter."
"THAT'S SO COOL."
"It pretty much is."
"We're going to do a haunted house here in the fall. I should hire you to write a script for it."
It should have occurred to me then what he thought I actually did for a living, but it didn't. I just nodded with a bit of confusion-- because I've never been to a haunted house that actually had a script-- but it took until much later for me to realize that he thought ghostwriters write stories about ghosts.
I thought that was just a funny one-time occurrence until two other people recently asked me questions about ghosts and haunted houses. So I thought it was time to put this out there:
Ghostwriters don't write stories about ghosts. We write books (and articles, blog posts, whatever) in other people's voices. We're called ghostwriters because we're meant to be invisible-- the books are not "ours," they're our clients'. It's our job to interview our clients and do whatever research is needed to get the story told well in their point of view.
It's a bit of a misnomer these days, though, because ghostwriters do usually get some kind of name credit. Not always, but usually. If you see a book that says "By Joe Smith with Jane Brown," then Jane Brown was the ghostwriter. Joe Smith is usually in large type and Jane Brown is in smaller type. If the ghostwriter isn't credited on the cover, he or she is often credited in the acknowledgments, though not necessarily in a clear way (it may not say "Thanks to my ghostwriter, Jane Brown," but instead may say something like, "Thanks to Jane Brown for the editing help," or "Thanks to Jane Brown for her thoughtful assistance").
So, yeah, I don't write about hauntings. But my job? It really is still SO COOL.