A ghostwriter helps the credited author tell their story. They can work on everything from memoirs to fiction books to Instagram captions. Most of the time, they're uncredited, hence the "ghost" part of the name. Sometimes, however, the identity of a ghostwriter is made public — often when they have something to say about their subject that isn't in the book.
Here are 14 ghostwriters who spoke out about the celebs and influencers they worked with:
1. In an essay that J. R. Moehringer, who ghostwrote the memoir Spare with Prince Harry, wrote for the New Yorker, he described a late-night argument he had with Harry over how to end a "difficult passage" about a military training exercise when one of the participants playing his captor made a "vile" remark about his late mother, Princess Diana. Moehringer said, "Some part of me was still able to step outside the situation and think, This is so weird. I’m shouting at Prince Harry. Then, as Harry started going back at me, as his cheeks flushed and his eyes narrowed, a more pressing thought occurred: Whoa, it could all end right here."
He continued, "Harry always wanted to end this scene with a thing he said to his captors, a comeback that struck me as unnecessary, and somewhat inane."
He explained that Harry wanted to end the scene that way because "all his life, people had belittled his intellectual capabilities, and this flash of cleverness proved that, even after being kicked and punched and deprived of sleep and food, he had his wits about him."
However, Moehringer asked the prince to trust him with the story and told him that he still wouldn't be including that comeback because memoir is "a story carved from your life, a particular series of events chosen because they have the greatest resonance for the widest range of people, and at this point in the story, those people don’t need to know anything more than that your captors said a cruel thing about your mom."
2. In a 2019 bombshell essay Natalie Beach wrote for the Cut, she revealed herself as the ghostwriter for her ex-friend, influencer Caroline Calloway. She wrote, "From the moment we met [in nonfiction writing class], I focused instead on helping her tell her own [story], first in notes after workshop, then later editing her Instagram captions and co-writing a book proposal she sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Beach also said, "For almost a week she’s been posting constantly — how much she misses our friendship, how hurt and ashamed she is about whatever she thinks I’ll say here, how relieved she is that I broke the trust in our relationship so she can now write about me, too. It’s been surreal watching this unfold from my desk job in Los Angeles, but I’m not surprised she’s taken an essay of mine that didn’t exist yet and turned it into a narrative for herself."
3. Maya Sloan, who ghostwrote Kendall and Kylie Jenner's dystopian YA novel Rebels: City of Indra, defended the then-teenagers from critics. She told the LA Times, "People are trying to take this away from the girls. But most art is collaborative. It was never, like, 'Maya — go off and write 10 chapters and send them back to us.'"
She also said, "They didn’t ask me to be on [Keeping Up with the Kardashians], and that didn't hurt my feelings."
4. In 2013, comedy writer Rick Polito accidentally revealed that he ghostwrote jokes for George Takei's Facebook page, telling blogger Jim Romenesko, "Even at $10 a joke, it still feels like a validation to see so many people reacting to my humor. I have written jokes that got 10 likes per second for hours. The power of George is unbelievable. His fans are a viral army. He may not be a stockholder, but he owns Facebook."
To Wired, Takei confirmed that Polito and other writers helped him find memes to post, but all of the commentary was his own writing.
He said, "I have Brad [Takei], my husband, to help me and interns to assist. What is important is the reliability of my posts being there to greet my fans with a smile or a giggle every morning. That’s how we keep on growing."
In a follow-up interview with Romenesko, Polito apologized, saying, "I just said that I'd been looking for any mention of my book I could get and that I hadn't meant to expose anything. I don't update his page. I've had no direct contact with George. I've sent him some memes, as have other comedian types, and I was happy for the exposure."
5. In 2016, Tony Schwartz, who ghostwrote then-presidential candidate Donald Trump's 1987 memoir The Art of the Deal, told the New Yorker, "I put lipstick on a pig. I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is. I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes, there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization."
He also said that, a month after the book's release, Trump held an extravagant party to celebrate it — then expected Schwartz to foot half of the six-figure bill. Using a few things he'd learned during their time together, Schwartz negotiated it down to only a few thousands dollars, which he vowed to donate to a charity of his choosing rather than give it to Trump.
6. In 2014, YouTuber Zoë Sugg (aka Zoella) was widely criticized following the revelation that she'd worked with a ghostwriter, Siobhan Curham, on her debut novel, Girl Online. Addressing the hate she received on her blog, Curham wrote, "When I was offered the opportunity to help Zoë, I also saw the opportunity to help get important and empowering messages across to her incredibly huge fan-base. ... But — and this is a big but — I did have some issues with how the project was managed."
She continued, "Issues which I expressed on more than one occasion. Issues which I'm afraid I'm not allowed to go into. And issues which have nothing to do with Zoë...I think it would be really healthy to have a broader debate about transparency in celebrity publishing. But please, don't blame Zoë personally for a practice that has been going on for years."
7. Zara Lisbon, who ghostwrote YouTuber Sierra Furtado's novel Life Uploaded, told Marie Claire, "Because my name was on the back of Sierra's book, a few of her fans attacked me, saying that I was a liar for claiming to have helped her at all."
Furtado chose to credit Lisbon as a co-writer after witnessing the backlash Zoe Sugg faced for using a ghostwriter.
8. Ariel Levy, who ghostwrote Demi Moore's memoir Inside Out, told the Guardian, "It's pretty raw. She really went for it. She didn't take anything out. I think she really wanted to communicate. She was sick of people trying to tell her who she should be."
She also said, "If you had told me five years ago I would be good friends with Demi Moore, that she would be someone I could really properly talk to, I wouldn't have believed you. The most surprising thing was that we could relate at all."
9. Tucker Max, who ghostwrote Tiffany Haddish's memoir The Last Black Unicorn, told Jezebel, "Writing is a distinct skill. Tiffany's a fantastic storyteller and speaker, but she's not a very good writer. My job was to get her whole self into that."
He also said, "Definitely one of the reasons they wanted me, too, is because she wasn't well-known at the time. If she tried to get a book deal now, she'd get a huge deal easily. It'd be a bidding war. There'll be one for her second book. But at the time, she was a relative unknown."
Max was very outspoken about being Haddish's ghostwriter. However, his involvement drew backlash because of his past work, often dubbed "fratire," which has been criticized as sexist.
10. Stephen Davis, who ghostwrote Michael Jackson's 1988 memoir Moonwalk, told the Boston Phoenix, "I was with him for a very intense period — maybe eight months it took to get those texts together. And then, the book was published, it was the #1 NY Times Bestseller, and it also came out in England — and then, he refused to let a paperback come out. I think he and Mrs. Onassis [Jackie Kennedy] kind of fell out over it. Because he kind of blackmailed her into writing a forward, which she never did [for her authors]. And I think she was kind of miffed about that. That was the take that I got on it."
He also said, "The day it hit the NY Times Bestseller list, it went out of print. It's one of the weirder stories in a) my career, and b) in publishing history. You can look — I have it somewhere. Someone framed the Times Non-Fiction best-seller list that week and sent it to me."
The memoir was rereleased following Jackson's death in 2009.
11. Brian Moylan, the ghostwriter behind The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast-member Erika Jayne's memoir Pretty Mess, told the Hot Takes & Deep Dives podcast that he didn't think it was a "red flag" that her then-husband, Tom Girardi, didn't read the book. However, he said, "I thought it was kind of a red flag that he didn't make it to see Chicago [the Broadway musical she performed in]."
He also confirmed that Bravo contacted Jayne a "handful of times" to ask her not to speak to him for the book.
12. In 2019, ghostwriter Alison Kingsley Baker reportedly sued Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast-member Kim Richards for not paying her any of the $300,000 advance she received for her since-canceled memoir.
They reportedly settled, with Baker accepting less than 50% of what Richards owed her in order to put the matter to rest.
13. In 2004, Tom Watt, the ghostwriter behind David Beckham's memoir My Side, told BBC News, "I wanted an outline of the story, and I wanted to spend my time with David talking about how he felt. ... You get everything you can out of them and put it in the first draft. Then, they say, 'Oh God, it's too unkind to my mother. It has to be taken out.'"
He also said, "Why should David have a literary voice? I'm the writer. It's just the need to get things down on paper. ... What surprised me about it was how close it is to acting. When you act, you take someone else's words and do your best to bring them to life on stage or camera."
14. And finally, in a 2023 essay for Vanity Fair, Wayne Lawson, the ghostwriter behind Old Hollywood actor Gloria Swanson's 1980 memoir Swanson on Swanson, set the record straight about who authored the book. He said, "It took four people to write the book: Swanson, her sixth husband, her lover, and me."
He later said, "First of all, without Brian Degas [her lover], there would be no Swanson on Swanson. Degas may have been down on his luck when he approached Swanson, but she was undoubtedly flattered to be approached — at 79, after five failed marriages and a sixth in trouble — by a captivating 44-year-old producer. In short order, Degas did marvelous things for her: the London gallery show and a best-selling autobiography. Most importantly, he made love to her and made her feel young again. He did for her what only director Billy Wilder had been able to do before him, with Sunset Boulevard. He gave her back her stardom. He also got a nice sum of money for [her sixth husband, William] Dufty, for a book I am confident Dufty was incapable of writing on his own. He gave me the chance of a lifetime, which became the basis for a long career in publishing."