Is Your Favorite Writer Really Dead?

Anne Marble
7 min readAug 19, 2021

Some authors keep publishing books even though they have been dead for years. Fans often don’t realize they’re buying books by ghostwriters who are carrying on the work of the original authors. Often, the author’s official website does not acknowledge that they died. Their social media presence keeps going, so fans think they are interacting with an author who died years ago.

Authors Writing from Beyond the Grave

It has become common for publishers (and the estates of the authors) to treat deceased authors like a trademark. Sometimes, the name of the author is even trademarked. uMany fans have no way of knowing that the author they loved died a few years, or even a few decades, ago.

Gothic Horror Novelist V. C. Andrews/Virginia Andrews

I first learned about this phenomenon with V. C. Andrews (published as Virginia Andrews in other countries). Along with my high school classmates, I was part of the first V. C. Andrews generation, starting with Flowers in the Attic. In 1986, not long after I graduated from college, I learned from an article that she had died. New V. C. Andrews books kept coming out. At first, her publisher explained that a ghostwriter had been hired by the family to complete unfinished works and outlines she had left behind. That made sense to me, so I accepted it.

A black-and-white photo of middle-aged woman with curling hair holding up a copy of the paperback of Flowers in the Attic.
V. C. Andrews Holding Up Her First Novel. (Source: Wikipedia; Fair Use.)

Then, the books kept coming out. Some readers asked, “How many unfinished works could she have left behind?” Other readers were happy to keep getting new books. Most readers didn’t notice that her name had become a trademark in 2004. Eventually, the publisher admitted that ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman was writing new books under the V. C. Andrews name. You can also learn more through an article at

In an article in Entertainment Weekly, Andrew Neiderman said, “Margaret Mitchell wasn’t a famous name. But who the heck doesn’t know Scarlett O’Hara? People want characters — they don’t care who the author is.”

As someone who confesses to lurking in V. C. Andrews fan groups on Facebook, I can tell you that it is an “open secret” even among V. C. Andrews fans that Andrew Neiderman is the ghostwriter. In some fan groups, fans are critical of his books. In other groups, not so much.

Anne Marble

I’m a writer and a copy editor with experience in editing science and engineering articles. Click Lists to find my most popular articles. And hidden gems.