Ghostwriting Case Study: Prince Harry’s “Spare” with ghostwriter J.R. Moehringer
Everyone is talking about the Duke of Sussex’s memoir. I want to talk about the ghostwriter behind it.
It’s pretty much impossible to have missed the hubbub around the publication of Prince Harry’s memoir, “Spare.” Like much of the world, I’ve been gleefully following the gossip. I’m a shameless gossip, a habit I justify with Barbara Walters’s (RIP) words, “Show me someone who never gossips, and I will show you someone who is not interested in people.” Hey, I’m just passionate about people!
While everybody is talking about Prince Harry’s book, not a lot of people are talking about the ghostwriter behind it: J.R. Moehringer. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. As a ghostwriter, Moehringer’s job is to, well, be a ghost. In “Spare,” he channels Prince Harry’s voice while teasing out one personal anecdote after the next — from the infamous fight with William to the spicy scene at SoHo House with Meghan.
Some ghostwriters only meet their subjects a few times and do the rest of the work via texts, emails, video chats, and phone calls. Others spend a lot of one-on-one time with their subjects, even shadowing them in their daily routines. When Moehringer worked with Andre Agassi on his memoir, “Open,” he reportedly moved to Los Angeles for the project. Agassi bought a house a mile down the road from his own, which Moehringer lived in for two years while completing the book.
Moehringer also collaborated with Phil Knight of Nike on his memoir “Shoe Dog.” What else has he done? Book industry experts aren’t sure — this New York Times article counts three ghostwritten books, including Prince Harry’s. That said, Moehringer is so exalted in his field, I have no doubt he’s in high demand and has been called on for more than these three projects. But part of his job is to keep quiet about it, put his ego aside, and smile when someone else takes credit for words he wrote.
I’ve discussed this aspect of ghostwriting before (“Do You Still Want to Be a Writer When Nobody Knows Your Name?”). Every job I do comes with a strict non-disclosure agreement, NDA, that effectively buys my silence. Ghostwriting is not for those with big egos. It is for those who love to write and who enjoy meeting interesting people. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when Moehringer sat down with the Duke of Sussex to collaborate on “Spare.” But I can only imagine the conversations they had — and that’s the whole point.
At the end of the day, we, the readers, can only peruse the finished product, holding a glossy book in our hands and flipping nonchalantly through the pages. Only the ghostwriter and his subject can know the blood, sweat, and tears needed to craft it.
Thank you for reading! This is a space where I share personal thoughts — an opportunity for self-expression that has nothing to do with my professional writing. None of the thoughts or opinions expressed in this blog should be construed as anything but my own, nor should they be affiliated with any company or person I contract with or write for.
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