PARK CITY, Utah — Local-ish author Daniel Paisner is a household author, whether you’re aware of it or not. Paisner is a celebrated ghostwriter with many New York Times best-selling biographies under his belt— and someone else’s name. Paisner’s fourth fiction novel, Balloon Dog, was released this July.
“I’m able to [ghostwrite] every day for my day job. These [fiction] novels are more of a side hustle for me, but it’s a side hustle that gives me great joy. I don’t know that I could do the one without the other,” said Paisner.
Set in the opulent expanse of The Colony at White Pine Canyon, Balloon Dog is the story of an in-plain-sight art heist, internet trolling, middle age, and accepting or changing your fate.
“Park City seemed like a natural place to set this book, and it made it a lot more fun for me to set it in my backyard,” he said.
The story revolves around Park City but swirls around Ogden, Salt Lake City, and goes as far as Devils Slide.
“You can almost look at Park City as a character in the book,” said Paisner. “And as you read the book, it changes how you go about your days [around town]. I found that a whole lot of fun, but it was exciting to be able to live and work in that same space.”
He wrote Balloon Dog in the first throes of pandemic living from his deck in Park City. Moments of peace in a time of uncertainty, he carved out time each morning for coffee and writing to the tune and timing of the neighborhood activity, like calls from the sandhill cranes or the hang-glider’s take-off and landing each day.
Paisner is from New York. He grew up as an East Coast skier but visited Park City almost annually and daydreamed of living in Park City.
Since 2014, he and his wife split time between Long Island and Park City. Like many, skiing was the main attraction, but after their first summer in Park City, they “fell in love. It was like being gifted a whole new home, a whole new community.”
Paisner has written and collaborated with many household celebrities such as Serena Williams, Steve Aoki, Daymond John, and Denzel Washington. His first foray into ghostwriting was in collaboration with Today Show weatherman Willard Scott.
He approaches his “day job” and “side hustle” differently. When ghostwriting, Paisner is self-admittedly ‘greedy’ when it comes to spending time with collaborators as he tries to glean as much information and personality from them as possible. He spent a week on Aoki’s tour bus and squeezed in interviews in early morning hours. In these cases, the story has already happened; it’s just the need to record it properly.
Fiction writing, for him, is like jumping out of a plane—which he has done. The story comes from thin air. Paisner approaches fiction writing more methodically, allowing himself to ruminate on plots, ideas, and characters before diving in (or jumping out?).
“It’s trusting in your ability to make that leap and to find something that you want to say that you think other people might want to hear,” he said.
Currently, he’s letting other fiction ideas marinate, and he hosts a podcast called As Told To for authors, readers, and writers. On As Told To, Paisner talks to peers and friends in the ghostwriting world, their processes, journeys, trade secrets, and battle wounds.
“I’ve found, now that I’m about 25 episodes into this thing, is that every ghostwriter collaborator I know did not set out to be a ghostwriter collaborator. [And that] they have found there are many ways to build and nurture and nourish a writing life.”
Balloon Dog can be found at Dolly’s Bookstore.