7 celebrity “authors” who didn’t do it alone

Everyone from Bill O'Reilly to Lauren Conrad has had a best-seller -- but how much writing did busy stars do?

Topics: Bill O'Reilly, lauren conrad, carole radziwill, kylie jenner, kendall jenner, pamela anderson, ghostwriters, co-writers, Editor's Picks,

7 celebrity "authors" who didn't do it aloneFILE - This Nov. 16, 2009 file photo shows Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly during a taping for "The O'Reilly Factor," in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, file) (Credit: Kathy Willens)

Who would’ve thought that a years-old memoir would become the hottest topic on reality TV?

This past week, a particularly airtime-hungry Real Housewife of New York reached for the first thing that came to mind and accused costar Carole Radziwill (a journalist and author) of having had her first book ghost-written — and by former Atlantic Monthly editor Bill Whitworth, to boot.

Making matters stranger is that these accusations have not been aired publicly in the years since the publication of Radziwill’s “What Remains” in 2005 — and that Radziwill credited Whitworth in the acknowledgments of her book as an editor, with none of the hazy “helped me bring my idea to life” language that usually accompanies a ghost-written or “co-written” book.

“What Remains” is a fairly personal look at Radziwill’s widowhood at a young age; she’s since written a comic novel, “The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating,” about similar subject matter. It’s hard to imagine an author other than Radziwill going there — not least because ghost-written books, which the accusations on “The Real Housewives of New York City” have brought to the fore — are usually so low-calorie.

There are the athletes’ memoirs, like Jose Canseco’s (whose actual author admitted he withheld elements of the story) and Lance Armstrong’s (whose author seems not to have known the full story). Reality stars and actresses get in on the game with quickie novels it’s hard to imagine them sitting down and structuring methodically. And then there’s Bill O’Reilly — who’d always worked alone until he hit on a strategy that necessitated the sort of quick work that a co-writer can facilitate.

All of these folks didn’t do their writing alone. Radziwill can breathe easy that she doesn’t appear to be in their company.



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    Seven celebrity "authors" who didn't do it alone

    Lauren Conrad, "L.A. Candy"

    Conrad insisted that she wrote her “L.A. Candy” series of novels largely solo, telling Forbes: “I always start my books by mapping out a detailed outline. This helps flesh out the story I want to tell — plot, characters and everything in between. [...] After I share the outline with my editor and get feedback, I begin writing — my favorite part of the process.” Just how much Conrad did on her series is between her and her credited co-writer, Nancy Ohlin, who’s done several non-Conrad books for young readers. Give this to Conrad, though: The books, which tell the story of the production process behind a reality show not unlike Conrad’s own “The Hills,” do seem to betray an insider’s knowledge.

    Seven celebrity "authors" who didn't do it alone

    Hilary Duff, "Elixir"

    Duff, a former teen actress, is somewhat more open about the fact that her young-adult series -- which kicked off not with a roman à clef but a fantasy novel -- wasn’t a solo job. Duff’s co-writer, Elise Allen, has praised Duff’s work ethic and ear for dialogue and acknowledged she was tasked to “turn it from a great idea into a full-fledged novel.”

    Seven celebrity "authors" who didn't do it alone

    Kendall and Kylie Jenner, “Rebels: City of Indra”

    Another would-be blockbuster fantasy series from teen icons -- this one a little harder to swallow. With a lot of free time on her hands, it’s not impossible to imagine Duff sitting around and concocting ideas for a new fantasy franchise. The teen models and co-stars of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” (they’re stepsisters to Kim, Kourtney and Khloe, who jointly “authored” a memoir, “Kardashian Konfidential,” in 2010) have set their name to a dystopian sci-fi franchise, of the sort that’s so big these days. Maya Sloan wrote the thing, but the publisher says it came “from the minds of Kendall and Kylie.” Moving right along!

    Seven celebrity "authors" who didn't do it alone

    Pamela Anderson, "Star"

    Anderson openly admitted to using a ghostwriter for this novel, even appearing at signings with him; she characterized their partnership, in interviews, as dishing to him about her wild past and then working together on a sex scene, eventually laughing. “He’s not shy or modest.”

    Seven celebrity "authors" who didn't do it alone

    Bill O'Reilly, "Killing Lincoln"

    So far, the celebrity authors have been women -- it’s, speaking anecdotally, not nearly as common for an actor or male reality star to put his name on a cover for a quick payday. (James Franco, whose books read, for better or worse, like his own work and not a ghostwriter’s, doesn’t count for the purposes of this exercise.) The male celebrities who get their names on books are the likes of Bill O’Reilly, who’s not a historian but has pivoted from political writing to three books of (very) popular history with Martin Dugard, who’s also co-written for the likes of James Patterson and TV producer Mark Burnett. In fairness to O’Reilly, there’s no credited co-writer on his earlier books like “Culture Warrior” or “Those Who Trespass.” But his books about the killings of historical figures have become such a cottage industry that there’s an incentive to produce quickly, in the manner a co-writer can facilitate.

    Seven celebrity "authors" who didn't do it alone

    Lance Armstrong, "It's Not About the Bike"

    The cyclist's memoir became a bestseller thanks to the work of Sally Jenkins, who wrote a Washington Post piece in which she seemed to have been entirely unaware of the scandals the book would never have covered -- and forgiving, too. Loyal to the end, Jenkins chides “ those people who are bitterly angry to discover that he is not Santa Claus, while ignoring the very real and useful presents he delivered.”

    Seven celebrity "authors" who didn't do it alone

    Jose Canseco, "Juiced"

    Canseco has used Twitter to advertise for a ghostwriter for a prospective book titled “the truth hurts it destroyed my life [sic].” He’d previously seen a ghostwriter quit one project intended to bash Alex Rodriguez due to a lack of actual incriminating material, and a ghosted book about steroids in Major League Baseball, “Juiced,” become a cultural phenomenon. The writer behind “Juiced” eventually came forward and said that he’d known far more than he’d printed about steroid use in sports -- saving it, perhaps, for a collaboration on a book in the voice of a less tumultuous celebrity.

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Daniel D'Addario is a staff reporter for Salon's entertainment section. Follow him on Twitter @DPD_

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