Monday, July 27, 2015

Author spotlight: Hilary Liftin

Hilary Liftin's Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper, written like a celebrity tell-all, takes readers inside a fairytale Hollywood romance that turns out to be very different under the surface. Below, Hilary sheds some light on how her years of experience as a celebrity ghostwriter helped her shape her first novel.

Q: Where did you get the idea to write your novel as a celebrity tell-all?
A: The idea for this book came one day when I was reading People magazine and saw yet another celebrity marriage exploding. I thought, "I don’t have to wait to land this job or any other. I can just write it myself—write the celebrity memoir of my dreams."

Q: You’ve been ghostwriting real-life celebrity memoirs for more than a decade. What was it like writing your own novel?
A: I’ve never written or studied fiction, but by now I’m very comfortable with writing memoirs. I’m used to taking on someone else’s story and voice and helping bring it to life. So it made sense for my first fiction to write a faux celebrity memoir. But there were definitely new challenges. I’m used to working with true stories, most of which I incorporate into the book in some form. For Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper, I had to face the daunting notion that not every idea was worth keeping. I probably wrote and discarded a couple hundred pages.

Q: Without naming names, can you share a little bit about what it’s like to work with celebrities on their books?
A: Ghostwriting is a true collaboration. We talk for hours—usually at my clients' houses—with me typing at high speed on my computer. I don’t know about other ghostwriters, but I would never put made-up stories in a memoir. Instead, as a client tells me what they think is most important and entertaining about their life, I’m helping them find connections and structure the narrative. Most celebrities work hard to manage their brands. They speak carefully, worrying about soundbites. Something that they and I both enjoy about the process is that it’s completely liberating. I’m on their side. I work for them. They can trust me with the truth, and then we can decide together how much of it to reveal. I always encourage my clients to be honest. If they’ve done something that’s potentially controversial, I figure if they can make me understand it and feel sympathetic, then we can achieve the same with the reader.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from reading your book?
A: So many of us devour the “just like us” celebrity photo section of magazines. In a way, I hope that the book is the ultimate “just like us” experience. But instead of realizing that stars pump gas too, Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper is meant to go a little deeper, exploring what happens when you discover that your spouse (megastar or no) isn’t all that you had hoped. I want it to be satisfyingly juicy, but also surprisingly romantic.

For me, reading about celebrities is part of my job, but it’s also a bit of a guilty pleasure. I feel sympathetic toward anyone who has to deal with paparazzi, no matter how much fancier their lives are than mine. I hope the book is a way for people to fulfill that voyeurism through fiction. No celebrities were harmed in the making of this book!

Hilary Liftin is an award-winning, New York Times–bestselling ghostwriter who specializes in celebrity memoirs. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children.

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