Part of the buzz around actor Sam Neill’s new memoir, Did I Ever Tell You This?, comes from the information Neill shares about his friend Robin Williams. While Sam Neill is a pretty well-known celebrity, he enjoys nowhere near the devotion and popularity that Williams continues to have nearly a decade after his death.
Drop Names to Sell Books
Name-dropping is a good way to get your memoir noticed. Celebrities hang out together and are expected to share details they glean from their personal relationships with people who may be even more famous than they are. In Stories I Only Tell My Friends, Rob Lowe divulges liberally about his co-stars, including Tom Cruise, from the movie “The Outsiders,” as well as everyone else he knows. It’s just a normal part of an actor’s memoir to dish about fellow celebrities.
You may not know any celebrities, but you may finding yourself focusing whole chapters of your memoir on other people. Perhaps you want to use your memoir to pay tribute to—or expose the misdeeds of—your parents. Or if you were abused by a spouse, you might write so much about the spouse that it’s practically a separate biography within your autobiography.
Still Your Memoir
Does this change the nature of what you’re writing? Are you still the author of a memoir, or is it some more general type of nonfiction book?
When you’re telling your story from your point of view, it’s a memoir. Even if you devote quite a bit of ink to someone else’s story, unless that person is truly the focus of the book, it’s still your memoir. One of the most famous books about two people is Just Kids by Patti Smith. You could argue that Just Kids is as much about the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe as it is about Patti Smith, but the book still is considered to be Smith’s memoir.
So go ahead and write all you want about other people who’ve had an impact on your life. That won’t change the way the book is perceived or marketed if you want to sell it. This will be your memoir, about you and the people who played a role in your life.