The Obedient Child: A Case Study in Writing an Autobiography

20 May 2022


“I constantly think that I am so glad that I finished writing my biography with your great help. I think it is one of the most important accomplishments and most enjoyable experiences of my life.”

Joyce Marleau, author of The Obedient Child

Producing a high-quality autobiography can be a complicated endeavor for those with little or no writing experience. In fact, many autobiographers find that the process is a lot harder than they bargained for.

However, with some help from a ghostwriter or team of ghostwriters, producing a long-awaited life’s chronicle can be achieved.

This was the case for Joyce Marleau, author of  The Obedient Child.

After working closely with a team of ghostwriters, Joyce was not only able to complete her autobiography, but is now receiving praises for her story and is even being recognized in public by strangers.

In this article, we will explore the role that a ghostwriter plays in helping extraordinary individuals, like Joyce, get their unique life stories out to the rest of the world.

Moreover, we will discuss how Joyce's book, The Obedient Child, is a textbook case study on how a ghostwriter (or team of writers) can assist talented individuals in achieving one of life’s crowning accomplishments: writing an autobiography.

What Is an Autobiography?

Simply put, an autobiography is the story of a person’s life told in the subject’s own voice. A subject’s own voice entails having their personal experience jump out at the reader. This characteristic is what defines an autobiography.

Traditional biographies—that is, a person’s life story told by a third party—while accurate, do not reflect the subject’s personal thoughts and feelings. What readers get is the author’s views, biases, opinions, and conclusions. In a manner of speaking, there is an invisible barrier between the reader and the subject.

That barrier fades away with an autobiography.

An autobiography’s main purpose is to take the subject’s voice to articulate their thoughts and feelings regarding their own life’s events. This approach allows readers to have a conversation with the subject. Readers get to imbibe the subject’s perception without the filter that comes from a third-party biographer.

On the whole, most autobiographies are the result of an individual’s writing acumen. Nevertheless, there are instances in which a third-party writer crafts the prose that reflects the subject’s true voice. This task is what ghostwriters do when they set out to produce an autobiography.

The Ghostwriter’s Role in Writing an Autobiography

Some people believe that an autobiography written by a ghostwriter is not an autobiography. But nothing could be further from the truth!

A ghostwriter’s role in an autobiography is not to produce the book's ideas.

Instead, the ghostwriter’s role is to articulate the subject’s voice and vision into prose that communicates with readers. As a result, a ghostwriter is merely an enabler that facilitates the culmination of an autobiographical project.

The question then begs, “What does a ghostwriter do in an autobiographical project?”

The answer to that question reveals the integral role that ghostwriters play in producing an autobiography.

Please remember that a ghostwriter’s role is to bring the autobiographer’s vision to life. A ghostwriter will mirror the author’s voice, tone, and inflections, so that prose flows just as the author intended.

As the American poet Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Indeed, ghostwriters help many untold stories come to fruition. They make it possible for the world to hear those stories.

Without ghostwriters, many stories would slip away into oblivion.

Ghostwriters at Work

Ghostwriters have been around a long time. They have helped some of the most famous and influential individuals get their message out there. Such is the case of President Ulysses S. Grant.

Following his retirement, Grant set out to write his memoirs. Indeed, he penned a great deal of the material himself. However, he had the helping hand of a dear friend: Mark Twain.

Twain convinced Grant to accept a deal from Twain’s publishing company, passing on other deals Grant had on the table. While more generous than the others, Twain’s offer came with an extraordinary benefit: Twain’s support. Twain officially provided Grant with consulting services. Mainly, he helped Grant edit his writing. However, the unique prose in Grant’s memoirs has been the subject of speculation for decades, which lies in the view that Twain actually ghostwrote Grant’s memoirs.

In the example above, Twain exemplified Maya Angelou’s words. He helped take a story and bring it to life. While there is evidence that Grant supplied the information in his memoirs, it was Twain who aided his dear friend in articulating the message he wanted to tell the world. Unfortunately, no one will ever truly know to what extent Twain helped Grant compose the words on the printed page.

Like President Grant, Joyce Marleau has lived an incredible life and has an equally impressive story to tell. So, she set out to share it with the world. She endeavored to produce her autobiography. However, she ran into some bumps along the way. So, she decided to contact the writing team at The Writers For Hire for help.

As with many first-time writers, Joyce had a head full of ideas. She had a treasure trove of photographs, stories, and experiences to share. She had a wonderful life journey waiting to come to life.

But instead of letting her life’s project languish, Joyce made a wise choice. She brought in a ghostwriter to help her bring her life’s project to fruition.

The result of this endeavor is The Obedient Child.

The Obedient Child is the story of a remarkable woman who left her home country at the age of 19. She set out from Taiwan to the United States without truly knowing what to expect.

She had lived through the Japanese occupation of her country through WWII, and the subsequent Chinese government rule. Undoubtedly, change has been her life’s overarching theme. Dreams have also been a major theme in her life. And one of those dreams was to study in the United States.

Through incredible bravery and encouragement from her parents, this amazing young woman made her dream come true.

She attended university in Kansas after leaving everything she had ever known in her life. Embracing uncertainty, this remarkable young woman— named Chwen Erl at birth—now became Joyce.

Joyce embarked on this new stage in her life, determined to be an American success story. With her husband, Joe, Joyce built her life on the foundation of her past to transform herself into everything she had always wanted to be.

Joyce and her husband settled in Seattle, Washington, where they started investing in real estate. Years later, after vacationing in Mexico, they decided to use their real estate experience to buy and renovate a home in the beautiful coastal town of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Joyce and Joe now live half of the year in Seattle and the other half in Puerto Vallarta, where Joyce has fully embraced the magnificent Mexican culture.

The Encounter

In March 2019, Joyce reached out to The Writers for Hire. She had finally set out to make her dream come true: write her autobiography.

The spark for this great endeavor stemmed from a chance meeting with author Alan Drury who, upon hearing about Joyce’s life experiences, encouraged her to write a book. From that meeting, Joyce has been determined to get her story out to the world. She had a message to communicate with the entire universe. Nevertheless, she merely needed a helping hand.

Joyce began fulfilling her dream with the help of a team of professional ghostwriters from The Writers For Hire.

Joyce’s ghostwriters, Jennifer Rizzo and Dana Robinson, helped her map out the path for her book.

This path led to an intensive four-day interview session in which Joyce laid out her remarkable life.

Throughout the interviews, which took place in Joyce’s home in Puerto Vallarta, Jennifer and Dana asked Joyce a series of questions about her life, and took notes as Joyce told her story (with a little input from her husband, Joe).

Those notes, along with the recordings of the interviews, would provide the basis for what would become The Obedient Child.

Armed with their precious cargo, Jennifer and Dana set out to compile Joyce’s wealth of information. From there, they crafted an outline of the book and began producing a narrative that captured Joyce’s true voice. This endeavor was not about just writing Joyce’s autobiography for her. It was about working closely with Joyce to mold her own words into a chronicle that aptly communicated her message.

Throughout the writing process, each completed chapter was sent to Joyce by email. Joyce then made any changes or additions that she saw fit, to ensure that the book was accurate and that it conveyed the exact message she wished to share.

Getting the Message Out to the World

Once completed, it was time to get The Obedient Child out to the world. Joyce’s ghostwriting team put her in touch with Houston-based publisher Stellar Communications. Stellar has a singular track record of publishing wonderful books, and The Obedient Child was not the exception.

Joyce’s ghostwriting team worked closely with the team at Stellar Communications to get Joyce’s book formatted exactly as she wished, with beautiful images added throughout.

Jennifer and Dana then did a final proof of the printed copy, to make sure that it was as perfect as possible, and ready to be published.

Upon publication, Joyce’s story has deliberately etched a place for itself in the literary world. It is currently available on Amazon.

However, the aim of the book is not to merely reach publication. This endeavor has not been about becoming a “published” author. For Joyce, this endeavor has been about reaching as many people as possible and touching as many lives as she could with her life’s essence.

And that, she has done.

Getting Through to Others

There is no greater satisfaction for any author, artist, or performer than to have others acknowledge their work and contributions. Receiving positive feedback from the public makes the hard work and sacrifice that comes with writing a book worthwhile.

For Joyce, that feeling of satisfaction would come soon enough.

As soon as her friends and family started reading The Obedient Child,  praises for Joyce’s book and her life story started pouring in.

Joyce’s younger sister even remarked that, through the book, she learned things about Joyce and her childhood that she had never known before.

But family and friends were not the only people impressed by Joyce’s fascinating book.

One morning in Puerto Vallarta, Joyce and Joe were running errands. Their errands took them to a local bank office where Joyce was pleasantly surprised by an unexpected encounter.

While at the bank, another customer approached Joyce to compliment her on the book. The lady had recognized Joyce from the photos in the book, and just had to meet her in person!

What a momentous occasion. Joyce now had fans!

Indeed, it is an author’s dream come true to have strangers stop to tell them about how much their book connected with them.

This encounter was the height of this incredible journey that started so many years ago.

The Lessons Learned

Joyce’s story highlights three key lessons regarding the role that ghostwriters play in developing an autobiography.

1. It is all about the author.

The author, Joyce, is the story’s focus at all times. She is the star of the show. As a result, the entire project revolves around what Joyce brings to the table in her book.

So, what did the ghostwriters do?

The ghostwriters were merely a conduit that allowed Joyce’s voice to shine through the pages.

When readers flip through a page in Joyce’s book, they get the real Joyce. The reader does not get a filtered view from a third-party perspective. Readers get the real deal.

It is worth noting that a ghostwriter is a consultant. Like Mark Twain, a ghostwriter assists the author in getting their message across. Ultimately, the ghostwriter does as much or as little as the author needs.

2. It is all about the message.

A great autobiography circles around a core message. Therefore, a ghostwriter assists the author in articulating that message so that it reaches their intended audience.

The aim is to ensure the prose resonates with the reader. Otherwise, the autobiography may prove to be a sterile exercise.

Joyce had a message she wanted to communicate to the world.

Working in tandem with her ghostwriting team enabled her to craft her message so that it resonated with her readers.

Ultimately, Joyce achieved her aim. Her readers now recognize her when she goes to the bank. How many people can claim that?

3. It is all about partnership.

Working with a ghostwriter is about building a partnership. This partnership creates a two-way collaboration. Please remember that a ghostwriter does not just write a person’s autobiography. A ghostwriter is also a consultant.

A professional ghostwriter is about helping the author find their voice as they navigate the waters of the literary ocean.

Writing can also become a lonely experience.

Writing an autobiography can be quite challenging. It is even more challenging when a first-time author attempts to go it alone. Therefore, having a trusted partner helps make the journey much easier to manage.

Joyce had a helping hand to guide her throughout every stage of writing her autobiography. Undoubtedly, producing her autobiography would have been much harder without the guidance of her trusted ghostwriting partners.


One Final Thought

Like Joyce, there are plenty of first-time writers out there. These aspiring authors have a message they yearn to communicate to the world. However, they may not know how to find their true voice.

Reaching out to a professional ghostwriter can mean the difference between having an untold story within and sharing their unique experience with the universe.

Ultimately, finding a trusted partner can make a dream come true. Joyce found her trusted ghostwriting partners at The Writers For Hire. It was indeed the right choice.

Zach Richter 

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