My collaboration with Brian O’Connor began as a ghostwriting project. I’m in the Houston, Texas area and he resides in Florida … so, just how did I provide Houston ghostwriting services to a client who is separated from me by three states?
The answer is easy. Through the miracle of electronic communication, it is possible to collaborate long distance via email, Skype, Dropbox, and any number of file sharing tools.
Houston Ghostwriting Services with International Clients
In fact, the term “Houston ghostwriting services” is a bit of a misnomer, since I work with clients around the world.
Below I share an interview with Sunny Southern Productions which details the partnership required for this special project.
Melanie Saxton: Book One in the Riverside Blues Series
Sunny Southern Productions asked author Melanie Saxton to detail her writing adventures while compiling the first biography in the Riverside Blues Series. We share a follow-up interview here with her impressions on writing Book Two, as well as our interview with author Brian O’Connor.
Sunny Southern Productions: Greetings and thank you, Melanie, for your notable contributions to the biography, The Original Rolling Stone: The Travelin’ Riverside Blues of Eugene Powell. How did this project come about?
Melanie Saxton: Brian O’Connor reached out a few years back about a book on Eugene Powell. As Eugene’s last (and probably only) manager, Brian wanted to honor the rich and raw journey of Eugene and the Powell family, as well as the amazing musical partnerships that developed in the Delta. Brian had promised Eugene’s children that one day, somehow, the story would be published. He made good on the promise when he hired me to write the never-before-told biography, and later, the series.
SSP: How did you and Brian collaborate, with you in Texas and him in Florida?
MS: First and foremost, we realized we were writing a groundbreaking biography. Based on Brian’s deep admiration for Eugene, the focus was reverent. Brian envisioned an untold story based on Eugene’s own words and firsthand accounts from his many children, as well as his friends. Brian had boxes of notes and clippings going back twenty-plus years, and journals filled with memories. He had volumes of recorded interviews that were transcribed from tapes. He mailed this material to me, and I compiled the book while consulting with him by phone. I emailed the evolving manuscript to him chapter by chapter … and then discovered that Mississippi Matilda’s chapter was a biography in itself. So we began Matilda’s biography while finishing Eugene’s book, and decided to launch them simultaneously. We felt an indescribable sense of responsibility throughout it all. It was blues history in the making and required extreme collaboration, not to mention a lot of oversight on Brian’s part as a subject-matter expert. But every ounce of effort was well worth it. Eugene deserved no less.
SSP: Can you elaborate on Eugene’s adventures?
MS: Oh, yes! This biography spans nearly ninety years, from Eugene’s birth in Utica, Mississippi to his “career” as a seven-year-old musical prodigy who was blinded in one eye, to his youth as a horse-whisperer and field hand, to his friendship with the famed Chatmon family, to his marriage to Mississippi Matilda, to his travels along the Mississippi riverside, to his famous Bluebird recording session in 1936 at the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans. I could go on and on!
SSP: What are your favorite parts in this story?
MS: I think what struck me most was the historic events in the story arc. Eugene was born in 1908 and experienced World War I, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Flood of 1927, a record tornado, the Great Depression, World War II, Civil Rights, and the blues resurgence of the 1970s. In his golden years, people from around the world traveled to Greenville, Mississippi to watch him play guitar from his porch. He enjoyed philosophizing and conjuring up the blues until his health failed. He really had an amazing life and was a man of profound faith.
SSP: What will readers take away from the book?
MS: Academics have studied Eugene, but never seemed to ask the deeper questions about faith. fatherhood, and what it meant to be black in the segregated south. Eugene gave a multitude of interviewers the answers he thought they wanted. This concerned Brian and the Powell family, who wanted to capture a true account that revealed the “man” rather than the “showman.” They wanted his authentic life chronicled — not one-dimensional outtakes, but the core of his personal beliefs. Thankfully, Eugene loved Brian like a son and really opened up to him. We were able to share his true feelings, innermost thoughts. and “plantation wisdom” as Brian calls it, in this remarkable biography.
SSP: Eugene was known to play Funky Butt music and sing hokum lyrics. How did that square with his faith?
MS: On the surface, Eugene was quite the storyteller and was known to crack jokes as coarse as his living conditions in the Delta. He certainly cut up with his close friends, and it’s true that some of his favorite “lowdown dirty blues” were explicit. But underneath this mask of showmanship and one-upmanship was a man grounded in spiritual beliefs. He passed these values to his children and raised them in church. So, I believe readers will enjoy this duality of “non-political correctness” and his reverence for the Almighty, rooted in the plantation spirituals of his youth.
SSP: Speaking of showmanship, what is it about Eugene’s guitar playing that impressed you most?
MS: Eugene was quite competitive and downright unbeatable. His incredible abilities on the guitar included a lot of forward-thinking experimentation. He rebuilt certain models and added additional strings. His daughters noted that by doing so, he could play bass and guitar from one instrument. His son Ernest loved to talk about Eugene’s “bumblebee playing,” meaning his ability to play the guitar upside down and behind his back. He also spun it around his neck while playing songs just for the fun of it. He was the maestro of the Delta.
SSP: Thank you for these glimpses into the writing process. How can you be contacted?
Whether you need Houston ghostwriting services or assistance with book editing no matter your location, please contact me for a consultation.