Posted on 08/29/2018 at 08:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Barry Fox’s writing career has brought him close to fame — literally.
As a ghostwriter, he has worked with CEOs of billion-dollar firms, newscasters, attorneys, entrepreneurs, and other people who have stories to tell but can’t do it alone.
And he, more than many other writers, can give an especially warm thank-you to his family.
His father set him on the path to successful ghostwriting, while his wife, Nadine, accompanies him on it as a ghostwriter of her own.
Fox was gracious enough to accept a rare spotlight and tell us what it’s like behind the scenes.
SADYE: How did you realize you wanted to become a ghostwriter, and then how did you become one?
BARRY: I’m an “accidental ghostwriter.”
While studying playwriting at the University of Southern California, I began ghostwriting articles on health for the popular press on behalf of my father, a physician.
Those articles led to books, and from there I branched out to writing books for other physicians as a co-author.
Soon enough, I moved into writing business books and memoirs and, in the 1990s, was fortunate enough to land a job co-writing Diana & Dodi: A Love Story, the tale of Princess Diana’s last romance, which ended in tragedy.
This solidified my position as a memoir writer.
Today, I ghostwrite books in several genres, including memoirs and books related to business, history, and art.
SADYE: What makes a good ghostwriter?
BARRY: The most important characteristics are a willingness to listen very carefully, and the ability to put yourself in your client’s shoes as you research and write.
SADYE: What type of book is your favorite to ghostwrite?
BARRY: I love working on books about topics that I know relatively little about when work begins.
For one book, I put on a hard hat and tramped through a steel warehouse, for another I flew to Japan to attend a conference with an interpreter.
One project took me to Helsinki to meet and talk with the author, while another required that I spend a lot of time trekking through American Civil War battlefields so I could get a feel for what it was like to engage in some of those bloody battles.
SADYE: What is the toughest part of the gig?
BARRY: Definitely, it’s the unrealistic expectations of certain clients.
Some who ask me to write their books are absolutely sure that they will receive a six-figure advance from a major New York publisher, the book will be an international bestseller, and they will become perennial favorites on the talk show circuit.
Those who start off insisting that their book ideas are, without doubt, the greatest in the world don’t fully understand the book business and are likely to be disappointed.
SADYE: Do you have plans to switch to writing your own books?
BARRY: I have solo-authored and co-authored many books, which I enjoyed.
But today I prefer acting as a ghostwriter because I can enter new arenas, see things I would never have seen on my own, and learn about how other people think and experience the world.
I recently ghosted a memoir of apartheid, which introduced me to horrors and hopes I had never imagined.
I’m scheduled to write a memoir of a man whose father played a key role in the negotiations between the Nationalist and Communist parties in China immediately after World War II, which will allow me to view a fascinating moment in history from a radically different perspective. I love it!
SADYE: What’s the best writing advice you’ve received?
BARRY: Learn the business of writing. This is the hardest part, and one of the most time-consuming aspects of ghostwriting. And it has very little to do with writing itself!
* * *
Know an author you'd like to see featured? Email us with a recommendation!
Categories: Author Interview