Working With a Ghostwriter on Your Memoir? Don’t Lose Your Voice

Working With a Ghostwriter on Your Memoir? Don’t Lose Your Voice
I watched a battered Ryan O’Neal squirm through an uncomfortable interview on the Today Show this morning. I felt bad for the guy. He was promoting his new memoir, Both of Us: My Life With Farrah, which details his rocky relationship with the late Farrah Fawcett. Matt Lauer did what any interviewer would do: he asked the autobiographer about particularly disturbing or explosive passages in the memoir. O’Neal was exceedingly candid, at times he seemed almost unfamiliar with his own words from the book.
Lauer read one passage that ended, “…because our lives felt so pointless.” Ryan acted surprised. “Did I say ‘pointless’?” he asked Matt, who confirmed it, and then Ryan sidestepped that description and spoke about the rest of the passage. Quoting another passage, Matt asked Ryan about his account of Farrah spending long periods staring into the mirror, upset by the aging process. Again, Ryan cushioned the quote and addressed ancillary topics.
Ryan is listed as the first of three authors of the book. There’s no shame in having a ghostwriter or two; many celebrities and ordinary people may be great at what they do professionally but are simply not writers. When you hire a ghostwriter, you’re still the main author. Make sure you’re comfortable with your writing partner, you communicate freely with the writer and you approve of every word in the book. No matter who does the crafting, this is your story, your voice.

I watched a battered Ryan O’Neal squirm through an uncomfortable interview on the Today Show this morning. I felt bad for the guy. He was promoting his new memoir, Both of Us: My Life With Farrah, which details his rocky relationship with the late Farrah Fawcett. Matt Lauer did what any interviewer would do: he asked the autobiographer about particularly disturbing or explosive passages in the memoir. O’Neal was exceedingly candid but at times seemed almost unfamiliar with his own words from the book.

Lauer read one passage that ended, “…because our lives felt so pointless.” Ryan acted surprised. “Did I say ‘pointless’?” he asked Matt, who confirmed it, and then Ryan sidestepped that description and spoke about the rest of the passage. Quoting another passage, Matt asked Ryan about his account of Farrah spending long periods staring into the mirror, upset by the aging process. Again, Ryan cushioned the quote and addressed ancillary topics.

Ryan is listed as the first of three authors of the book. There’s no shame in having a ghostwriter or two; many celebrities and ordinary people may be great at what they do professionally but are simply not writers. When you hire a ghostwriter for your memoir, you’re still the main author. Make sure you’re comfortable with your writing partner, you communicate freely with the writer and you approve of every word in the book. No matter who does the crafting, this is your story, your voice.