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Your Favorite Authors Are Frauds: 6 Famous Ghostwriters

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It’s almost like learning the truth about Santa Claus: Once you know, it’s so obvious, but you're still a little heartbroken when you discover that your favorite author didn’t really pen most of the work with his or her name on the cover. Take comfort, though, in the knowledge that many of those ghostwriters are talented enough to be successful under their own names. Here are a few of them.

1. Peter Lerangis

If you know young adult novels, you probably know Mr. Lerangis. His 140 titles include books in The 39 Clues series, two series of his own (Watchers and Drama Club) and the critically acclaimed historical fiction Smiler’s Bones.

Millions of us of a certain age, however, are most familiar with Lerangis’ undercover work masquerading as a bunch of tweens from Stoneybrook, Connecticut. Lerangis wrote approximately 40 books in The Baby-Sitters Club series, including Mary Anne’s Makeover. He also did a little ghosting for the Sweet Valley books (Twins and High).

2. Andrew Neiderman

V.C. Andrews was just a few books into her empire when she passed away from breast cancer at the age of 63. The last book in the Dollanganger series that made her famous, Garden of Shadows, was started by Andrews but finished by Andrew Neiderman. With the blessing of her family, Neiderman took over in 1986 and is still writing under the V.C. Andrews name to this day.

Between his V.C. Andrews work and writing his own novels, Neiderman has had more than 100 books published. The most well-known is probably The Devil’s Advocate, a 1990 novel that was made into a film starring Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron. Hallucinations, mental institutions, and insanity, all wrapped up with a Gothic bow ... kind of makes sense that a V.C. Andrews-style author was involved in that story, don’t you think?

3. H.P. Lovecraft

The father of Cthulhu and the Necronomicon dabbled in ghostwriting for none other than Harry Houdini. Lovecraft had long been a contributor to the pulp magazine Weird Tales when the founder, J.C. Henneberger, contacted him about ghostwriting for the famous escape artist. The magazine was in a little financial difficulty and Henneberger felt that “true” stories from Houdini would help sales. For $100, Lovecraft churned out “Imprisoned With the Pharaohs" in less than a week and earned himself a big fan in Mr. Houdini, who offered him more ghostwriting opportunities. The piece was later retitled "Under the Pyramids," and Lovecraft was given a byline.

4. Raymond Benson

Raymond Benson is probably best known for his work with everyone’s favorite secret agent: He wrote 12 James Bond novels between 1997 and 2002, including the novelizations of Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough. It's not surprising, then, that he’s also the man behind another spy-thriller franchise, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell.

Though a glance at the cover might lead you to believe that the novelization of the video game was written by Tom Clancy, a closer look will reveal that it was written by “David Michaels,” who doesn’t really exist. Benson used the Michaels pseudonym for the first and second book in the Splinter Cell series, and after that another author was hired to use the same moniker.

Benson has also written novelizations of the video game Metal Gear Solid, computer games based on Stephen King’s The Mist and Lynne Reid Banks’ The Indian in the Cupboard, and the 2011 thriller novel The Black Stiletto. He also wrote The Pocket Guide to Jethro Tull.

5 & 6. Daniel Ehrenhaft and Ryan Nerz

Like Ann M. Martin, Francine Pascal didn’t have much to do with the huge hit series bearing her name. The final Sweet Valley books were penned by a gaggle of ghostwriters, including Daniel Ehrenhaft and Ryan Nerz.

So how did a couple of dudes in their 20s get into the minds of a bunch of teen girls clamoring to hear Elizabeth and Jessica’s latest exploits? “I had to smoke a lot of weed. I’m kind of kidding, kind of not,” Nerz told The Hairpin in August. He also admits to consulting his sister when he needed detail for scenes that included, say, makeup application.

Interestingly, Ann Brashares (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) was Nerz’ editor; Cecily von Ziegesar (Gossip Girl) was an editor during the same time period.

Nerz now writes books that are decidedly adult, including Eat This Book (a first-hand account of the competitive eating circuit) and MARIJUANAMERICA (perhaps the reason he decided to investigate the competitive eating circuit).

Ehrenhaft has stayed in the YA genre and has quite a few titles under his belt, including the recently released Americapedia. He’s also a member of Tiger Beat, a band made entirely of Young Adult authors.

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Kyle Ely
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Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.

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literature
How the Rise of Paperback Books Turned To Kill a Mockingbird Into a Literary Classic
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Tim Boyle/Getty Images

If you went to middle or high school in the U.S. in the last few decades, chances are you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's now-classic novel (which was adapted into a now-classic film) about racial injustice in the South. Even if you grew up far-removed from Jim Crow laws, you probably still understand its significance; in 2006, British librarians voted it the one book every adult should read before they die. And yet the novel, while considered an instant success, wasn’t always destined for its immense fame, as we learned from the Vox video series Overrated. In fact, its status in the American literary canon has a lot to do with the format in which it was printed.

To Kill a Mockingbird came out in paperback at a time when literary houses were just starting to invest in the format. After its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was reviewed favorably in The New York Times, but it wasn’t the bestselling novel that year. It was the evolution of paperbacks that helped put it into more hands.

Prior to the 1960s, paperbacks were often kind of trashy, and when literary novels were published in the format, they still featured what Vox calls “sexy covers,” like a softcover edition of The Great Gatsby that featured a shirtless Jay Gatsby on the cover. According to a 1961 article in The New York Times, back in the 1950s, paperbacks were described as “a showcase for the ‘three S’s—sex, sadism, and the smoking gun.’” But then, paperbacks came to schools.

The mass-market paperback for To Kill a Mockingbird came out in 1962. It was cheap, but had stellar credentials, which appealed to teachers. It was a popular, well-reviewed book that earned Lee the Pulitzer Prize. Suddenly, it was in virtually every school and, even half a century later, it still is.

Learn the whole story in the video below from Vox.

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