Ghostwriter Anita S. Roy Discusses How Life Tragedies Can Mold Into Life Blessings
Anita, Welcome to Kreative Circle! You’ve achieved a successful career as a ghostwriter serving prominent names in the entertainment and business industries. When were you introduced to the craft of writing and how did it evolve into a career that has “nourished” (per your words) your family?
Thank you. I’ve been fortunate to develop a long career which has nurtured my curiosity, sustained a roof over my head, and has allowed me to expand my growing family. I was introduced to the craft of writing at the young age of four. I recall going to work with my father. He used to sell foreign carpets. He would frequent the shop showroom selling to people while in the back room I would keep myself busy by writing stories in the form of plays. Writing was a past time for me. It allowed my mind to wander off. As for my personal history, I was born in Mumbai, India. The first 10 years of my life were spent in Zimbabwe. Later my family moved to Morocco for better opportunities. This also put a strain on my parents’ marriage due to moving around without a set destination. My mother opted to return to India for a brief span of time. My brothers and I joined our mother to spend time in Mumbai. My mother enrolled us to study classic literature and writing in two languages — Hindi and English. Those classes focused on creative writing, theater; et al. She encouraged us to find a passion we could develop as part of our cultural identity. Unfortunately, my studies were cut short at the age of 16. My mother discovered she had leukemia, an uninvited shock, when we were already financially strapped managing two homes. Soon, as a family, we decided to join our father again in Morocco. My mother was able to find better care to help her condition. I resumed my studies by attending trade school. Majority of the classes stressed the importance of domestic arts and parenting. The trade school was split in two sub-schools educating young girls and college aged women. Domestic arts didn’t pique my interest. I knew one day I was expected to get married. I resumed my education by studying domestic arts for three years. Marriage followed my studies. It was an arranged marriage, a practice still popular within my culture and family legacy. I spent the first 15 years of my marriage taking care of my husband, raising two beautiful kids; et al. My husband’s unexpected death caught me off guard 17 years into our marriage. I went from a housewife wanting to discover her identity to mourning her husband’s passing. Overnight I was faced with new challenges. How was I supposed to support my children? I started working part time jobs from being a bookkeeper to sewing outfits for locals in the community. My manager at the bookkeeping job was aware of my affinity for writing. He and his wife set me up with a writing tutor to help me develop skills that would later help me secure white collar jobs in office settings. I started writing on the side as a passion and over a span of four years I started acquiring a following. This is before the internet took center stage. There was a local newspaper hosting a competition crediting fiction writers. The winner would receive 2500 dirham. My neighbor convinced me to submit a piece. I received a call about three weeks later informing me that I had won. This brought my work into the limelight which spurred my soul into action. Soon I was seeking local book shops for social engagements to connect with other writers and readers. My writing assignments came far and few in between until I was hired by a local newspaper in need of a weekly column. Majority of my paid assignments came through word of mouth and referrals. This is how I survived as a single mother for a long period of time.
Growing up in South Africa introduced you to many different cultures and lifestyles. How did your teenage experiences shape your view of the world?
Growing up in South Africa introduced me to different faces, smells, and STORYTELLING. South Africans love storytelling. I encourage people to study their history. It’s rich, it’ raw. It’s made of dreams and emotions that go unmatched by other cultures. I grew up in a melting pot surrounded by multilingual citizens communicating their dreams to anyone on the street willing to listen. Most of my teenage years were spent in Africa. I met people from all walks of life that weren’t socially common back in Mumbai. Some of these friends were very progressive in their lifestyle choices. Some were opinionated towards their view of the world. Nothing was off the table with them. Not sex, not drugs, nothing. They could hold their own when debating about social issues and global politics. I wasn’t groomed to have a voice to speak on topics which were once perceived controversial. I came from a simple home. My social outlet for any stimulating conversation took place within the four corners of my parents’ home. I’m grateful for my South African friends introducing me to a part of life I would otherwise not known. Slowly I was immersed in getting to know people which helped me overcome my social handicap (shyness). Ghostwriters are anonymous when writing. Whether you’re a ghost writer or not, you’re writing on a piece of paper, you’re typing your story line… you’re not necessarily in front of an audience. There’s a different type of stage fright ghostwriters face time to time.
As a military wife, you’ve had the privilege of traveling the world with your husband and children. How did you meet your husband? What role did he play in resurrecting your love for writing?
Military life treated my family well! I traveled the world during the first 10 years of my marriage. My husband Rishi and I decided we would start a family sooner than later because military life can be unpredictable. Both of our children were born in foreign countries. Our oldest son was born in Italy. Our younger daughter was born in Indonesia. I met Rishi initially through family friends. Rishi was visiting from abroad to celebrate our cultural holiday, Holi, with his parents. We crossed paths once to exchange pleasantries. A year later when the marriage proposal came, I knew marriage was the next step in my life chapter. Nine months later, we celebrated an arranged marriage. Fortunately our personalities and family values meshed well to build a strong foundation for our children. I couldn’t be prouder of calling him my husband, my best friend. It was his passing which triggered a series of events leading me to seek a livelihood to keep a roof over our heads. My husband took pride in being a breadwinner, now I was left to figure out how to become the breadwinner. His absence left me with the burden of raising two children without a father figure. Emotional support from others was sufficient to keep us afloat as I discovered new means of earning an income to support a family of three. My children transitioned from the daily comforts of military life to living in a one bedroom apartment with limited amenities to address basic needs. Life changed overnight for our family. We lived with these limitations for about five months until I secured part-time day jobs which offered me freedom to work when my children were at school. Night jobs weren’t an option until my children were self sufficient without needing to rely on me as much. Writing became a healthy outlet for me in the evenings. Before writing turned into an income stream, I started journaling at night. I kept a journal to communicate with my deceased husband; letting him know how the day went. what happened in our children’s lives; what was happening in the world. On rare occasions, I would open the journal at night just to cry over those blank sheets of paper wishing Rishi were still alive. My children and I learned how to thrive in his absence. Writing took a life form after my husband passed away. Putting my thoughts into words stirred a connection letting me speak to him through writing. It was later in time I began writing for strangers needing someone to translate their thoughts into words.
Pursuing a career in writing can be challenging because many manuscript submissions are overlooked in the publishing industry. The acceptance rate is limiting that people explore self-publishing for many reasons. You’ve had the pleasure of working with prominent publishing houses globally over the past 25 years. What have you learned about the pitching process?
I’ve submitted over fifty four manuscripts since I started writing full time back in 1998. It is a challenging industry to break into but writers need to remain determined to share their message. If your message is powerful, make sure to publish it in some form. Not every message requires a publisher; there are many publishing outlets available. There are no guarantees for acceptance. There are no fixed time frames for receiving feedback. Some publishing houses can take years to read your script. Don’t wait on feedback in order to proceed to your next assignment. The first few rejections definitely made me question whether I should continue on my writing journey. I encourage everyone to submit their manuscript. Read the directions on each publisher’s page. Each publishing company has different objectives to meet. Not all publishing houses represent all genres. Always Check. Are they looking for nonfiction, fiction, fantasy? They have plenty to read. Remain open to feedback. The feedback cycle in writing is never ending.
Anita, what have you learned about rejection in your career path?
Rejection is a part of life. The sooner you grasp it, the better it is for everyone including yourself. Rejection exists in every corner of life. It only means you’re going in the wrong direction. You need to find a new course of action. Some of my biggest rejections forced me to focus better. Rejection makes us reflect whether our actions have a greater purpose.
Some writers take pride in being self-taught professionals. What are your thoughts on how writing should be taught?
I am partially a self taught professional due to gaps in my education while growing up. Attending trade school prepared me to become a homemaker, not a writer. I believe a writing curriculum should be mandatory in all specialized studies. Writing is an essential tool that helps us express ourselves. Words breathe life into ideas. It helps art come to life. Anything is possible with writing.
Online writing communities exist to connect writers. It’s a hub for networking and permitting others to provide feedback. Is there any advice to offer new writers who join these valued platforms?
New writers should go out, learn, and listen to people discuss their writing practices.
My guidance is simple — writers become better writers through practice, practice, practice…
Become vulnerable in your writing. Your words reveal a story you’re figuring out along the way. Let those words direct your course.
Learn to receive and offer feedback. It took a while for me to build trust in these communities. Giving feedback takes practice.
What advice can you offer writers when it comes to editing their work?
Editing is part of the writing process. If you don’t like to edit then find a good editor. Make sure the editor understands your objective for writing a specific piece.
What guidance do you have for readers who have constructive criticism to share with the authors?
Constructive feedback exists in most areas of life. Ask and you shall receive. When providing feedback, make sure to treat the author as you would like to be treated when receiving feedback. You are not only critiquing words, you are critiquing a message that belongs to an owner. It’s packaged with care. Handle it with care.
Anita, what themes do you feel most comfortable writing? What theme have you conquered but will not entertain again? Why?
Majority of my work focuses on fiction and social culture. Businesses and individual freelance artists hire me to help develop their growing portfolio of work. I will not entertain any health or technical related topics. It falls outside of my mental and preferential capacity. Write on topics that you enjoy unless you’re open to investigative journalism.
In your opinion, is it easier for you to write as a ghostwriter, or would you rather have your name situated alongside some of the famous names you’ve written for?
I’m indifferent to whether my name will show up on the cover or credits. Few writers credit my pen name because they feel a duty to share the limelight.
What two writing tips can you offer to new and existing writers in the market?
Practice. Find a time that resonates with you and find ways to write, write, write. This helps writers expand their mind and discover their style of writing. Next, consider writing on different genres to keep yourself employable in the market. Flexibility with your craft can take you far. There are many different forms of writing, from blogging to articles to magazines, to newspapers, websites, journals. Find an outlet that works for you and continue developing yourself as a writer.
All writers can benefit from taking a mental break. Anita, how do you recharge to ensure your mind is fluid when working on concurrent projects in your writing pipeline?
I love gardening. Presently I’m making space to welcome my seventh pet to join two dogs, a cat, a parrot, a hamster and a rabbit. I love spending time with my children and my grandchildren. There’s plenty of loving noises that compete for my attention when I’m away from my writing.
Please share how audiences can connect with you.
Messages and inquiries can be sent to indwritersroy(at)gmail(dot)com.