Officially, the bestselling novel I Am Number Four and its sequels are the work of Pittacus Lore, an elder of the endangered Lorien civilization. Unofficially, they're the creation of Million Little Pieces author James Frey, and his "fiction factory."
But who's actually been writing the books since the original author, Jobie Hughes, left? Apparently, it's a professional ghostwriter, Greg Boose. Does this mean James Frey's "fiction factory" is on its way out?
According to New York Magazine's must-read 2010 article on Frey's "fiction factory," I Am Number Four was actually written by Jobie Hughes, a recently graduated MFA graduate, based on an idea by Frey. Even though Hughes was originally listed in a press release as an author of the book, he wasn't allowed to advertise himself as the author of the book or speak publicly about his involvement with the series. Frey was reportedly recruiting tons of other young MFA students, offering a contract that paid as little as $250 (plus a percentage of future ill-defined proceeds) in return for all the rights to the students' work.
The collaboration between Frey and Hughes ended — acrimoniously, by most accounts — after I Am Number Four. Hughes worked on a draft of the follow-up novel, The Power of Six, but his draft was tossed out.
So who's writing the sequels to I Am Number Four now? It appears that it's Greg Boose, a professional ghostwriter in L.A. who does not in any way fit the "desperate, hungry young MFA graduate" stereotype depicted in the New York Magazine article.
Boose tweeted a while back:
(That tweet has since been deleted.)
And on his personal webpage, Boose mentions being the ghost-writer of a popular young adult book series, saying among other things:
Greg Boose is the ghostwriter for books #2 and #3 of a popular Young Adult series published by HarperCollins. Book #2 spent three weeks as NUMBER 1 on the New York Times best-selling Young Adult list. Book #3 comes out in late 2012.
This seems to be referring to the I Am Number Four sequels.
We contacted Boose, and he declined to comment. We were unable to get in touch with James Frey.
So who is Greg Boose? He's the Los Angeles co-editor of BlackBook Magazine, and a frequent contributor to Huffington Post. And he's been a professional writer for several years, having won a reader's choice award from Farmhouse Magazine back in 2008. He's written for a slew of mostly online publications, including
McSweeneys.net, Opium Magazine, Cracked.com, The Believer, and so on. He's not fresh off the turnip truck.
So all in all, it seems unlikely that Boose signed a contract such as was described in the New York Magazine article. In fact, as someone who's serious about being a professional ghostwriter (and editor and writing coach) he probably worked out a standard ghostwriter agreement. And he probably didn't have any illusions (as Hughes reportedly did) that writing these books would help him sell his own, non-ghostwritten work.
Meanwhile, the second series from Frey's venture, the Montauk Project, launched its first book last month — So Close to You by Rachel Carter. And it appears that Rachel Carter is the real author of this story of a teenager who stumbles into a portal to a dangerous new world. Her website describes her as a 27-year-old recent Columbia MFA graduate living in Brooklyn. Originally, NY Magazine says So Close to You's sale to HarperCollins was reported with no author named. And the Guardian said in 2010 that So Close to You might use the teenage main character's name as a pseudonym, similar to the way the alien Pittacus Lore is the "author" of I Am Number Four. But in the end, Rachel Carter got to be credited for the book she wrote.
So does this mean that Frey is moving away from his "fiction factory" model, which relies on young, hungry authors who believe their anonymous contributions will somehow lead to literary fame and Hollywood money? Or did he just turn to an established professional for the I Am Number Four series, because it's already a bestseller and in need of careful handling?
Either way, there's nothing especially wrong with the I Am Number Four books being written by a work-for-hire author — that's how most comic books and most Hollywood movie and TV projects are done, after all. But if you're going to hire a ghostwriter, hire a ghostwriter. And that's what Frey has apparently done this time around.
[Thanks for the heads up, Dirtbag16!]