Prince Harry's Spare Ghostwriter Opens Up About Working with the Royal
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It's no secret Prince Harry worked with a ghostwriter on his recent memoir. In the acknowledgements for Spare, Harry writes, "Thanks to my collaborator and friend, confessor and sometime sparring partner, J. R. Moehringer, who spoke to me so often and with such deep conviction about the beauty (and sacred obligation) of Memoir."
Moehringer, who also ghostwrote the memoirs of Andre Agassi and Nike founder Phil Knight, recently took to the New Yorker to reveal about what it was like to work with the Duke of Sussex.
"In summer of 2020, I got a text. The familiar query. Would you be interested in speaking with someone about ghosting a memoir? I shook my head no. I covered my eyes. I picked up the phone and heard myself blurting, Who?" Moheringer writes. "Prince Harry. I agreed to a Zoom. I was curious, of course. Who wouldn’t be? I wondered what the real story was. I wondered if we’d have any chemistry. We did, and there was, I think, a surprising reason. Princess Diana had died twenty-three years before our first conversation, and my mother, Dorothy Moehringer, had just died, and our griefs felt equally fresh."
He continues, "Still, I hesitated. Harry wasn’t sure how much he wanted to say in his memoir, and that concerned me. I’d heard similar reservations, early on, from both authors who’d ultimately killed their memoirs. Also, I knew that whatever Harry said, whenever he said it, would set off a storm. I am not, by nature, a storm chaser."
Yet, Moehringer eventually agreed to work with the prince. "Harry had no deadline, however, and that enticed me. Many authors are in a hot hurry, and some ghosts are happy to oblige. They churn and burn, producing three or four books a year. I go painfully slow; I don’t know any other way. Also, I just liked the dude. I called him dude right away; it made him chuckle. I found his story, as he outlined it in broad strokes, relatable and infuriating. The way he’d been treated, by both strangers and intimates, was grotesque. In retrospect, though, I think I selfishly welcomed the idea of being able to speak with someone, an expert, about that never-ending feeling of wishing you could call your mom."
They wrote throughout 2020, and when Moehringer was finally able to travel to Montecito—he remembers Meghan bringing him trays of food and sweets, and the hours he spent writing with Harry. "While I always emphasized storytelling and scenes, Harry couldn’t escape the wish that Spare might be a rebuttal to every lie ever published about him," Moehringer explains in the essay. "As Borges dreamed of endless libraries, Harry dreams of endless retractions, which meant no end of revelations."
Moehringer also writes about the experience of the book leaking, and the falsities that spread quickly about what was within the memoir.
After the release of the book, Moehringer reveals that his car was followed as he drove his son to preschool, and a writer from the Mail on Sunday appeared outside his window at his home. "I’d worked hard to understand the ordeals of Harry Windsor, and now I saw that I understood nothing," he says. "Empathy is thin gruel compared with the marrow of experience. One morning of what Harry had endured since birth made me desperate to take another crack at the pages in Spare that talk about the media."
The essay closes with Moehringer and his wife attending a book party thrown by one of Prince Harry's friends, and how he and Harry both teared up during Harry's toast. He writes, "after we hugged Harry goodbye, after we thanked Meghan for toys she’d sent our children, I had a second thought about silence. Ghosts don’t speak—says who? Maybe they can. Maybe sometimes they should."
Read Moehringer's full essay, "Notes from Prince Harry's Ghostwriter," in the New Yorker.
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