No stranger to being written about, soon Prince Harry will be setting the record straight in his own words.
On 10 January his highly anticipated memoir Spare comes out. Its provocative title alone an indication that the Duke of Sussex hasn’t held back.
So what do we know about what he’s written? Well, publisher Penguin Random House promises the “landmark publication” will contain “raw, unflinching honesty… insight, revelation, self-examination and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief”.
Very few have been allowed copies in advance to understand how exactly that translates into stories but there is one man who knows more than most – Prince Harry’s ghostwriter, the former-journalist-turned-novelist JR Moeringer. He’s an American writer who also penned Andre Agassi’s award-winning autobiography Open.
Andrew Crofts – who’s ghostwritten more than 80 books for other people, including celebrity best-sellers – thinks selecting an “outsider” to England is a smart move.
“It’s quite good to have an American ghosting this book because they’re coming to it with less background knowledge,” he says.
“So they’re actually going to be asking questions that I would probably, as an Englishman, might not bother to ask because it’s taken as red. So if you’re appealing to a global market, just as Harry is, it’s good to have somebody who’s slightly outside.”
Could Moeringer be a kindred spirit? His own memoir was the subject of Ben Affleck’s film The Tender Bar which came out at the start of 2022.
When Sky News caught up with Affleck he described the story – which centres on a young boy’s search for surrogates to replace his absent father – as a “celebration of single moms”.
“It’s also a testament to the importance of fathers in their child’s life and how meaningful that is… it’s about the importance of love and seeing somebody and validating them,” Affleck said.
But Crofts isn’t convinced Moeringer’s background will mean a focus on the prince’s father, King Charles.
“Maybe, if that’s his interest, he would ask more questions about the father-son relationship and make certain assumptions based on his own experience, but he shouldn’t really. I mean, he’s being a professional.”
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In that capacity, Crofts says, it’s unlikely the prince will have been challenged on any of the opinions he expresses in the book as a good ghost needs to be “totally non-confrontational, totally uncritical”.
“A ghostwriter should never argue with them, even if they radically disagree with what they’re saying. That’s not the job. Whatever the subject matter is the ghostwriter goes along with it, just like a lawyer would.
“For the ghost, often the difficulty is balancing the publisher’s needs with the author because you’re sort of straddled in the middle. The publisher, I would imagine, wants as much controversy as possible, they want to rile up the Royal Family and the media to get lots of headlines and the author may not want to do that.
“You might know, as the ghost, that if they do that they’re going to have an awful time with their family. And so sometimes you have to sort of balance it… where it’s still a really good read, it gives the readers everything they want from the story, but it doesn’t actually drop the author in it, so to speak.”
While the Royal Family might be keen to draw a line under the drama, given that Prince Harry has reportedly been paid around £30m for a four-book deal it is impossible for Buckingham Palace to get a read on what he’ll say next.
In Harry and Meghan’s recent Netflix documentary series he spoke frankly about the breakdown of his relationship with brother William and blamed the media for Meghan suffering a miscarriage. Coming just weeks on from that, broadcaster and royal specialist Jennie Bond says it’s hard to imagine he’s much left to share.
“I have a lot of sympathy for them,” Bond insists “they did not like the life they were in.
“But I can’t imagine there’s really anything else to say unless they have more barbs to point at their own family.”
In the weeks to come, the memoir is predicted to dominate best-seller lists. Through pre-sales alone, it is already number 1 in Amazon’s Hot New Releases In Books.
And the Duke of Sussex doesn’t intend to keep all the profits for himself. He’s donating £1.2m ($1.5m) of the proceeds towards his Sentebale charity – supporting vulnerable children and young people in Lesotho and Botswana affected by HIV/AIDS – and £300,000 to WellChild, which he was a royal patron of for 15 years.
Spare is released on 10 January.