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Louise Monaghan on Working with a Ghost Writer

Writing.ie | Resources | Better Non-Fiction Guides | Writing Memoir

Louise Monaghan

I always found the term ‘Ghost Writer’ quite intriguing. With the aid of my vivid imagination I can conjure up images of a writer sitting in a dimly lit room, hunkered over a desk. They write by candlelight with long, grey fingers, expressionless and unseen by the eyes of the living. My daughter May and I recently had a conversation about ghosts names and how many I could rhyme off. Keeping it light-hearted I replied with the names I remember, Casper and Nick, the nearly headless ghost in Harry Potter. She pondered for a while and replied that I had forgot one, Yvonne. Laughing I explained to May that Yvonne Kinsella was a ghostwriter, and not a real ghost. Her response to that “there are no such thing as real ghosts, silly Mama!”

I never conveyed this story to Yvonne, whom I now consider a dear friend. In the midst of most definitely the worst episode of my life, the abduction of my daughter May, she played an explicit role in our eventual return to safety.  I met Yvonne through one of those odd coincidences – my sister Mandy, feeling desperate with sheer frustration, asked the attending Gardai if she knew anybody connected with the media who could help us. Our quest to obtain a passport for May had become a legal nightmare and we felt our last option was to bring our plight to the media’s attention. Yvonne, an accomplished TV producer and journalist was a neighbour of the helpful policewoman and so began our long and arduous journey together.

With May and I practically held captive within Syria, a positive conclusion to our nightmare seemed impossible. Whilst I liaised with embassy and consulate officials on the ground, my determined sister Mandy relentlessly strived for assistance locally. Yvonne remained a constant source of advice and support throughout her campaign. In a few snatched phone calls, I conveyed my terror in muted whispers to a horrified but calm Yvonne. Ultimately her voice was the first to greet us on our eventual arrival home to safety at Dublin airport.

The ensuing day’s and week’s were abuzz with excitement and surrealism. An appearance on the ‘Late, Late Show’ was certainly a highlight. On non-frequent quiet evenings my sister, Yvonne and I reflected on the horror of the ordeal and the magnitude of events. During this period, I was questioned on several occasions as to whether or not I would put pen to paper and relive the entire experience through a book. I discussed the possibility with my family and I ultimately felt that my story offered an insight into many complicated issues, especially parental abduction and domestic abuse. I began to feel passionate about relaying my ordeal in print in the hope that it would inspire and give some hope to countless victims of such issues. I am also an unwilling and rare witness to the worst civil war to hit Syria in modern history. Not fully possessing the experience to write and publish such a book, Yvonne was there to help me. She was to be the ‘Ghost Writer’ to my book ‘Stolen, Escape from Syria’.

In the initial stages of formulating the book, Prizeman and Kinsella sought publishers. My entry into the unfamiliar world of publishing had begun. My story was on the market before the long tale was even completed. After a number of bids, Mainstream acquired the rights. Hereafter, Yvonne and I would meet as often as we could. It was November 2011 and we spent countless evenings in front of welcoming coal fires formulating the story. Surprisingly, in the course of writing the book, we discovered that we shared similar life experiences and a unique kinship was formed.

The experience of writing, was, to say the least, emotionally challenging and we often cried as we recalled some of the more poignant moments. Yvonne mentioned on a number of occasions her inability to sleep; such was the depth of emotion felt by us. To relive and remember such moments of terror was, unquestionably, traumatic. Yvonne, with her invaluable experience, deemed it important to not only relay the full story in it’s entirety but to also convey a sense of ‘being there’. Sights, sounds and smells were deemed intricate elements in order to do the story justice. In conclusion, I can now say that I found the experience of ‘writing’ my story rewarding and therapeutic. Hopefully many people will relate to my truthful account and I dream that  it might help someone who finds themselves in a similar situation.

About the author

Louise’s book, Stolen, Escape from Syria, has been optioned by Irish film company Epos Films.

The book has now also been sold into Ireland, the UK, the US, North America and Canada, France, Germany, Slovakia, Estonia, Czech Rep, Turkey, Poland, Latvia, Australia, New Zealand, and two publishers in China have secured the book in Chinese and traditional Chinese imprints.  Stolen, Escape from Syria, will be translated into at least nine different languages to date and deals are still being negotiated worldwide. The book has already been secured by renowned publishers such as Lattes, St Martin’s Press, Mainstream and Luebbe.

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