A friend and fellow author is going through a blog tour this week to promote his book Johnny Nothing. He has graciously come up with this satirical piece reflecting what is wrong between ghostwriters and other authors. Also, below that are links to his sites, a chance to get a copy of Johnny Nothing AND an excerpt from his book. Enjoy and please take a moment to look into Ian’s work.
I have a teensy-weensy confession for you: I’m not actually writing this article. I mean, I came up with the ideas for the content and whatnot… The characters, is that what you call it? The story and all that… But when it came to the actual business of letting my fingers press down on those little buttons on a keyboard I let someone else do it. I mean, I spend a lot of money on my nails, each cuticle has a different sponsor and I wouldn’t want to let them down by breaking a nail, would I? Dyknowhatimean? Sure, my name’s at the top of this article. But then why wouldn’t it be? I mean everybody knows my name but even I don’t know the name of the person who did the donkeywork on this article. The actual WRITING if that’s what you call it. That’s not important, is it? What’s important is that as many people as possible buy this article so that my publishers make as much money from it as possible. I mean, they gave me a lot – and I mean a LOT, a simply DISGUSTING amount of money – for permission to use my name so they have every right to try to – what’s the word? Recoup. That’s it. Recoup the money. The people who read this article don’t really care that I didn’t write it. Do they? I mean, the most important thing is that the article bears my name. In a way, I’m sponsoring the article. That’s a nice way of putting it, isn’t it? I’m a sponsor. Just like all those people who sponsor me for wearing their lipstick and mascara. I’m SPONSORING these words. Every single word is endorsed by ME. Especially that last word. ME. There, I’ve sponsored it again. I mean I don’t care if an 11-year-old girl named Sofia walked into W H Smith two weekends ago and was shaking with anticipation when she saw my new book that I didn’t write. If you’ve not heard of it I think it’s called ‘Grill Online’ and it’s about a girl who spends a lot of time online talking about make-up and boyfriends. I put a LOT of thought into that character. It doesn’t matter to me that Sofia pleaded with her parents for an advance on her pocket money so that she could give my publisher £12 to help repay, sorry RECOUP, all that money the publisher gave me to use my name. I’m just pleased that Sofia was able to buy a book with my name on the spine. What was inside that book is merely incidental. I mean, what’s so wrong with using a ghostwriter anyway? I mean, I’m pretty sure that Jordan must use a ghostwriter. She writes loads of books. What about Stephen King? Isn’t he a ghostwriter? Yes I know that I probably should have mentioned that someone else actually composed the sentences in whatchmacallit? ‘Gull Ovine’ but no-one got hurt. Did they? What do you mean that Sofia was really disappointed this morning when she read in the papers that her heroine and role model (role model? Don’t make me laugh. Even I wouldn’t have ME as a role model) didn’t actually write that expensive book that she wrote? What do you mean that Sofia simply assumed that a prestigious publisher such as Penguin would never consider deceiving hundreds of thousands of young girls all over the world simply to make money out of them? Penguin would NEVER do that. They have integrity. They have a reputation. I mean, everyone’s heard of Penguin Classics. They’re simply the best books in the world. I mean, didn’t Morrissey write a Penguin Classic? Anyhow, even if they have made a teensy bit of money out of ‘Growl In Time’ it’s not such a bad thing. I mean everybody does it. Why only last night I had a Dixie Fried Chicken supper. It looked exactly like Kentucky Fried Chicken and the logo was almost identical. Why, it even tasted a little like KFC (I threw mine away in the end and got a Big Mack from Iceland). And what about Milli Vanilli? They were a pop group who didn’t even sing their songs and they won loads of awards! Grammys and all. There! Oh, hold on. They were stripped of all their awards and had to pay back loads of people who had bought their records thinking that they were singing their own songs. I mean, after all it did say ‘Milli Vanilli’ on the label of the record. Oops. That could never happen to me. Could it? I mean I came up with all the ideas and things for that book I didn’t write and then somebody else writ it down. Maybe, come to think of it, would it have been that wrong for Penguin to simply have given the nice lady who wrote ‘God! A Crime!’ a credit on the front of the book? I mean my name could still have been bigger and maybe had a few sparkles on it but at least it would have been HONEST. And all those young girls like Sofia – I call them fans, which is a shorter way of spelling ‘sucker’ – wouldn’t have been crying quite so much about wasting all their pocket money and having their hopes and dreams dashed and finding out that the world is just one big shop and that we’re all shoppers and individuality and originality is a CRIME. I suppose that would have been the HONEST thing to do. I mean, I’m sure that people would still have bought that book I didn’t write. HONESTLY. Because isn’t writing all about honesty? Isn’t writing one of the few art forms that removes the distance between artist and observer to create an intimacy that can probably never be matched by any other media? Gosh! You can really tell that I didn’t write that last sentence. I know what. What if Penguin were to simply REFUND the money that their wholly innocent and exploited teenage customers have been diddled out of? What if they simply give back all the money they’ve made trying to RECOUP all that money they gave to me? Wouldn’t that be the HONEST thing to do? Yes it would. I’m sure it would. I’m going to call my agent right now… Now where’s my ghost caller? You can never find her when you need her…
“Great new kids book alert! My two are in hysterics reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert (and I am too).” Jane Bruton, Editor of Grazia
“Oh, Wow! Dark, sordid, grotesque and hilarious are only a few words I can conjure up to describe this hilarious book.” Lizzie Baldwin, mylittlebookblog
Critics are comparing Ian Probert to Roald Dahl. And Johnny Nothing we have a modern successor to Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.
Johnny Nothing is best-selling author Ian Probert’s first ever children’s book – although adults are enjoying it too. The story of the poorest boy in the world and the nastiest mother in the universe, the book is earning rave reviews. Children and grown-ups are all laughing at this incredibly funny kids book.
Take a look for yourself:
To celebrate the paperback launch of Johnny Nothing we are offering a free Kindle copy of the book to the first 100 people who Tweet the following message:
@truth42 I’m reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert. http://geni.us/3oR8 #YA #Kindle #kidsbooks
The first ten readers who answer the following question will also receive a signed print of one of the book’s illustrations.
Q: What is the tattoo on Ben’s arm?
Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org
Ian Probert has been scribbling down words ever since he learned to spell the phrase: ‘Once upon a time…’. He is the author of Internet Spy, Rope Burns and a bunch of other titles. Internet Spy was a bestseller in the US and made into a TV film. Rope Burns is a book about why books shouldn’t be written about boxing. Ian has also written things for a shed load of newspapers and magazines. When Ian was a student he used to write lots of letters to the bank manager.
Bill had a shaven head and was wearing a blue tracksuit. He was almost seven feet tall and built like an outdoor toilet made of brick. Bill didn’t realise this but he was a distant descendent of Neanderthal Man. He had only one eyebrow – one long bushy eyebrow that reached right across his forehead. He looked like what you might get if you force fed a member of Oasis with a half-tonne black plastic sackful of steroids.
And if you were brave enough to be present when he took off his tracksuit you would discover that his back was so covered in hair that he was able part it with a comb. If Bill had had more of an interest in fashion, he might even have considered giving it a curly perm and perhaps a few extensions
On his right arm, Bill had a tattoo which simply read ‘Bill’. This was in case he woke up one morning and forgot who he was. This was actually less unlikely than you might imagine because standing next to him was his twin brother. His name was Ben and he was identical to Bill in every way except that the tattoo on his arm read ‘Bin’ (the tattooist was either South African or not a very good speller). He was wearing a red tracksuit.
Bill gave Mr. and Mrs. MacKenzie the tiniest of smiles and managed to grunt ‘hello’. Ben gave the couple exactly the same tiniest of smiles and also managed to grunt ‘hello’.
The two men were standing protectively close to Johnny. They were so large that in the confines of Johnny’s bedroom they looked like giants, which they were. They were so enormous that each of them had their own postcode. They were so gigantic that they had their passport photos taken by satellite. They were so humungous that you could spend all day thinking up rubbishy jokes about how big they were and never adequately describe just how indescribably, earth-shatteringly ENORMOUS they were. By no stretch of the imagination could you call them small (unless, of course, you were a lot bigger than them).
The pair of Goliaths were having to stoop slightly so as to avoid head-butting the ceiling, which actually even looked a little scared itself. They were a terrifying sight. Even scarier than a school trip to a Weight-Watcher’s nudist camp.
There was a long, pregnant silence in the room like this:
This eventually gave birth to an even longer post-natal silence, which, in the interest of preserving the rain forests or the battery on your Kindle, I shan’t demonstrate.
The four grown-ups eyed each other nervously. Bill and Ben looked at the Mackenzies like they were looking at insects that could be squashed into pulpy insect juice any time they so desired.
The Mackenzies looked at Bill and Ben like they were looking at two giant skinhead Neanderthal bully boys who had just appeared from nowhere in their recently and unexpectedly decorated council flat.
Johnny looked a little scared.
Finally Billy Mackenzie managed to get his mouth working a little and spluttered: ‘Who are you?’ And then: ‘What do you want?’
There was another long silence – let’s call it a pause – while Bill and Ben looked at each other as if trying to decide who was going to answer. Finally Bill spoke: ‘You the boy’s parents?’ he demanded in a voice that sounded like an angry rhino with horn-ache. Although if he was clever enough he would have realised that this was a rhetorical question.
There was yet another long silence (you’ll be relieved to hear that this is the last silence you’re going to get in this chapter) before Billy Mackenzie mumbled ‘Yes’.
‘We’re Johnny’s bodyguards,’ continued Bill. ‘We’re here to make sure that everything’s hunky dory.’
‘Hunky dory?’ Mrs. Mackenzie suddenly found her voice. ‘What do you mean ‘hunky dory”?’
Now Ben spoke: ‘What my brother means to say,’ he explained. ‘Is that we’ve been – how shall I say – contracted – to make sure that this young feller’s affairs are in order.’
‘Get out of my house!’ interrupted Mrs. Mackenzie, suddenly feeling a little braver, although she had no idea why.
Bill and Ben looked at each again for a moment. They did this almost as much as your mum looks in the mirror. Or you dad looks at websites that he shouldn’t be looking at.
‘First of all,’ said Bill, ‘This isn’t a house – it’s a flat.’
‘And second of all,’ said his brother. ‘We ain’t going nowhere. And neither are you.’
‘Johnny who are these men?’ Mrs. MacKenzie asked her son, ignoring the two giants.
‘I’m sorry mum but…’ Johnny started to speak but Bill cut in like a pair of scissors that chops sentences into bits.
‘…What the young feller means to say is that the fun’s over.’
‘The fun’s over?’ repeated Felicity MacKenzie numbly.
‘That’s right,’ continued Ben. ‘You’ve had a right old time. You’ve been spending his money like it’s your own. You’ve been ripping the poor young feller off. And we’re here to put a stop to it. From now on things are gonna be different.’
‘I’ve had enough of this,’ said Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my house…’
‘Flat,’ corrected Ben.
‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my flat. Billy, call the police!’
As usual Billy MacKenzie did as he was told. He reached into his pocket for his mobile phone. Before he had the chance to even turn it on the gigantic frame of Bill was towering over him.
‘That an iPhone?’ asked Ben.
‘Erm… Yes,’ said Billy, who could only watch as the huge man took it from him and with one hand crushed it into a chunk of buckled metal and shattered touch screen.
‘I think it’s broken,’ said Ben. ‘You ought to take it back to the Apple store. Tell ‘em that you’re not getting a decent signal.’
‘Right!’ cried Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘We’re leaving! You’ll be very sorry you did that. I’ll fetch the police myself!’
Now the giant frame of Bill was standing in front of her. He was holding something in his hand that looked a little like a child’s toy space gun.
‘Know what this is?’ he asked. Although once again he wasn’t clever enough to recognise that this was a rhetorical question.
Mrs. Mackenzie regarded the object for a moment. Then she shook her head. Whatever it was she guessed that it was not intended to provide pleasure, happiness or fulfilment.
Anything that has a trigger and a barrel and goes ‘bang!’ seldom does.
‘Come on Billy!’ she said. ‘We’re leaving!’
Bill stood in front of her blocking the doorway. ‘Not so fast,’ he said, not so slowly. ‘It’s called a Taser. See this little trigger at the front? If I press this it’ll give you a small electric shock. It won’t hurt you…Well not too much anyway.’
Bill raised the object and gently touched Mrs. MacKenzie on the arm. There was a loudish bang and a flash of blue neon light and Mrs. MacKenzie collapsed groaning to the floor.
She was conscious but wasn’t able to move her arms and legs
‘Oh my gawd!’ said Billy Mackenzie bravely charging out of the room in terror. He got as far as the stairs before there was a second flash. He, too, crumpled to the floor. Bill dragged him back into the bedroom by the scruff of his neck.
Johnny Nothing got to his feet and stood over his two parents. He looked anxious. ‘Are they… Are they… OK?’ he gasped.
‘Don’t you worry yourself,’ smiled Ben. ‘Give em a few minutes and they’ll be right as rain.’
‘But they’ll think twice before they try to run off again,’ said his brother.