A Little Update On What I've Been Up To

So it's time for a little update about what I've been up to these past few years, what I've got going on and everything in-between.

First up: my Ryan Gosling biography just came out. Like all biography projects I get involved in, it started from my getting really interested in his work and him and finding it bizarre that nobody had felt him worthy of a book yet. And so, like a lot of books I've written, I set about writing the book I couldn't find in a bookstore.

With biography, the first question people always ask is whether you got to work with the subject, interview the subject and so on. It's a logical question and people are often surprised that biographers rarely have (or want) access to their subjects - and that we come to like it that way. Check out this great riff for the Huffington Post by Lauren Goldstein Crowe, at the time her Isabella Blow biography came out: she nails so succintly what I'm talking about.

When a subject wants to tell his or her story in an "official" way, that can be the gateway to a book - be it ghostwritten autobiography/ memoir or official biography - that's controlled and orchestrated. We biographers like to work in a far less monitored way, burrowing into detail on our own instinct and chasing down the story that we think is most interesting - for obvious reasons, the subject may not agree with that narrative angle.

Early on in my career, when I was naive about the biographer/ subject interface and thought that if you were a journalist/ critic writing a biography, that the subject would of course welcome talking to you with open arms, I would spend a lot of time chasing subjects like Patti Smith and Sean Penn and Amy Winehouse, before realising that neither they nor their management were ever going to sanction what I was doing. I got over that sense of restriction as I wrote more and more biographies and started realising that you can angle a life story far better when you've had no involvement with the subject: their input would be a form of perpetual censorship on the work you're doing.

So, without any endorsement or input at all from Ryan Gosling, I've written a book - from the simple perspective of someone who has written a lot about film, written a lot of film biographies, interviewed a lot of film people (Jim Jarmusch, Julian Schnabel, Harmony Korine, Roman Polanski, Werner Herzog, Darren Aronofosky, Ethan Hawke, Helen Hunt etc etc) - that I think gets at Ryan Gosling's story in a lot of pretty interesting ways.

Beyond Gosling, I've also been updating other successful biographies I had previously written about actors. Back in May, the fourth updated edition of my Johnny Depp biography hit bookstores and a few weeks ago back in September, a second updated edition of my George Clooney biography also shipped out to bookstores.

A lot of writers I know work on one book at a time. I'm too restless for that. I typically work on several book projects simultaneously. In the early days of the Ryan Gosling biography, I was approached by a publisher who wanted me to write a biography of the actor, Martin Freeman. I like his work, found his story intriguing and share his love of music, so I thought, Let's do it. That book - also written without any involvement with Martin Freeman: and so unofficial - is going to be published next week.

In the thick of this biography fever, I took on 3 ghostwriting projects (which for obvious 'ghost' reasons, can't be discussed) and also had a great opportunity to explore my love of photography in a lengthy essay. The essay came about when the curator Susan Bright got in touch to say she was putting together an exhibition at the Photographer's Gallery about motherhood and photography. She said she was working with the publisher Art/ Books on a catalogue/ monograph to accompany the show and knowing I'd written about artists like Vanessa Beecroft and Elinor Carucci as well as penned plenty of Dad pieces for The Guardian, The Observer, Junior and the Huffington Post, asked if I'd write an essay about fatherhood today and how it rhymes with motherhood as seen through examples in photography. You can check out the exhibition, Home Truths: Photography, Motherhood And Identity, at The Photographer's Gallery from October 11th 2013 to January 5th 2014 and read my essay in the accompanying catalogue/ book of the same name.

So what next? Right now: words are going up on my Mac laptop screen for a new book; my 16th. It's another biography of an actor; another multi-talented Hollywood figure. It's pencilled in to come out October 2014. More on who the subject is soon. 

Thanks for reading.



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