Ghostwriting for a Ghost

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

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Ghostwriting for a Ghost

I had the rare privilege of being engaged to ghostwrite a supernatural fiction novel based on the ideas and quite well-structured notes of Radu Shing-Zien, a Romanian Chinese mixture of philosophy, anarchy and the most wonderful compassion.

The story followed Radu's life from the first memory he could muster, then his exodus from Taiwan at 10 years old, praying every day the Triads weren't just round the corner, wondering if Daddy would come home each night and if he'd be angry or sad.

It was the story of a man who'd endured the most radical changes to his existence on a regular basis but a story of a man who'd prevailed.

He'd seen hideous war, he'd loved so very much and he'd been cheated, targeted and attacked on many occasion, principally due to his pathological hatred of evil and it's manifestation in humankind.

He'd been a catholic priest in the Philipines and an infantry soldier in Angola, a barman, a terrible pool player and a poet.

Sometimes he prevailed with anger, sometimes with love, but most of all, tenacity and an unswerving belief that not only were all of life's movements happening for a reason but that reason was inherently good. The universe was good.

He wanted to call it, "Shame I didn't make it to Chapter Five."

When I met him in Andalusia in Spain, he was seventy three. It looked like he'd spent every daylight minute of those years baking hard and creased in hot sunshine. And he was unable to remove the secret smile that was always there, making you feel at ease, comfortable, inspired by his peace.

He got started on the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile pilgrimage across Northern Spain, in early Summer 2017 and I started writing. He said he'd been here so long, after he landed in Spain from Sardinia in 1998, but he'd never done it.

His notes really were exceptional, leaving me with my mouth open like should be drooling more than a few times and showing me things I'd never imagined, let alone experienced.

He'd set his email to send me notes on one new chapter a week. I did mention it would be ideal to get the whole thing understood before starting but that smile returned along with a polite silence and two more tumblers of black rum and ice.

The chapters rolled in, informed me, infuriated me, flapped around me like a field of bedsheets, made me sad and made me very very angry.

I began to get the feeling there was something more round the corner, something more ghastly or more wonderful, the death of a child or the recovery of a wonderful cure. I began to feel slightly nervous whenever a new email was due, like I was about to be in trouble for something.

It was the Monday that chapter five landed at exactly 9am that everything became clear.

For some reason, I looked up the Camino de Santiago situation, see how they were all doing, and one of the headlines was a rockslide claiming just the one life. It was Radu.

He'd been carried off down the mountainside and his life was gone by the time they found him at the bottom. One police officer attending the scene said, "he looked so peaceful, almost smiling," and the shock of the news turned to my own smile.

Then my smile paused and I looked away from whatever I was looking at and remembered, 'Shame I didn't make it to Chapter Five.'

I stored it in the bottom drawer of 'Supernatural things that definitely just happened but, nah, they couldn't could they?'

It was then I realised I was ghostwriting for a ghost.

His life was on my laptop in the front room by the window. I wondered if there might be a casual haunting but I honestly didn't feel anything but total peace in the house. It was like the universe had had the good grace to pause while this man's story was realised.

The plot was becoming less chaotic as a philosophy started to embed itself into Radu. A peace had come over him pretty soon after he got to Spain.

He attempted to explain why that peace had come but could only put it down to suddenly being aware of his place in the universe.

He'd been shown his future and he'd been shown his end, the timeline according to Radu Shing-Zien, and eventually it played itself out.

The final chapter notes covered the Camino de Santiago trail he'd yet to start when he wrote them and it culminated in a fairly graphic account of his own demise.

If a policeman had read Radu's notes, he would have got as much information about the death of a man as he'd ever had.

The final few pages had me in tears mixed with intermittent shout-out-loud laughter. I'd never experienced it before. It was like there were two people in my head battling to take one track or the other.

Radu's account of his own death ended with a beginning and quite honestly it had to. He just bid farewell to this world from this life and looked forward to seeing us all again in a place he said he didn't have the words to describe.

When I finished, I shut my laptop down for a week and insisted that anyone that knew me take turns to accompany me on a week long session of rum and release in Radu's honour.

When I returned home from this celebration, carrying a broken little toe for my troubles, the house felt different. I didn't seen anything and didn't hear anything but there was something there. So convincing was his coda, so definite his return to us at some point, I knew he was right. He'd proven it.

I guess I went into a kind of supernatural shock for a few days while the weight of discovering another dimension unloaded on me. We've all wished we could see that bit further, beyond our dimensional world, like we all wish we could see UFOs and aliens. But then it happens, we still have to fight to absorb it as it was intended. If we're lucky, and I was lucky, we succeed in accepting it and we open up a new pathway or two in our brain.

I went out side and shouted 'Of course it is' across the terrace and down the mountainside because quite simply, of course it was.

It was a slow rise to a crescendo of awareness and I knew one day I may well see signs, like Radu did, I may well see my path and I may well decipher my own demise.

I may even follow his path thought the other side.

I went through the motions, editing, spellchecking and eventually knocked it into legible shape. I didn't really know what I would do with the book now he was gone. Part of me expected another email with details but instead the phone rang.

An elderly and polite female voice the other end took under a minute to relay the fact that she was Eliza and she was Radu's sister. Eliza had cropped up more than once in Radu's notes and he'd made her sound exactly as she did here.

Her voice was a little croaky, like she was staying strong in the face of ever-threatening tears. She said she'd been contacted last week and told the news. She hadn't seen Radu for twenty-three years and that made it worse.

Radu's will had a simple message for her. To get in touch with me as I had something for her. It didn't say what and no-one else knew either. So here she was the other end of this phone, asking.

My own tears threatened but then they gave way to something else.

Radu's story, prophetic or otherwise, was for Eliza. When I'd first spoken to him, I'd asked whether he wanted it published and he'd just said, 'lets cover that when it's done.'

I knew I didn't need to but I did ask Eliza for some form of proof of identity and she supplied it willingly and soon after that, I sent her Radu's notes and his brand new book. It felt like I was the final menial cog in his extraordinary existence and I knew Eliza would laugh and cry as I did.

Embedded somewhere deep in my conversations with Eliza, was a little piece of information that my brain probably suppressed until I was man enough to contemplate it.

Eliza said it had taken ages to find the will. Twenty years had passed and it took some digging out. It had been deep in a filing cabinet in a dusty old place somewhere in Ireland, untouched by solicitor or mortal man since 1998.

Watch out for more posts on:




Book Funding

Book Design

Book Production

Book Rights

Book Reviews

Book Publishing

Book Publicity

Book Promotion and Social Media

Literary Agent Pitch

Promo Videos



Author Websites

Search Engine Optimisation

Screenplay Adaptation

Film Makers

Film Producers

Original Music

Take care, big hugs and adios.


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