Prince Harry’s ghostwriter, J. R. Moehringer is detailing the collaborative process in writing the royal’s memoir, “Spare,” admitting that Harry’s intention was in sharing his truth, but also in debunking lies spread about him.
“Little by little, Harry and I amassed hundreds of thousands of words. When we weren’t Zooming or phoning, we were texting around the clock. In due time, no subject was off the table,” Moehringer wrote in The New Yorker.
“I felt honored by his candor, and I could tell that he felt astonished by it. And energized. While I always emphasized storytelling and scenes, Harry couldn’t escape the wish that ‘Spare’ might be a rebuttal to every lie ever published about him.”
“As Borges dreamed of endless libraries, Harry dreams of endless retractions, which meant no end of revelations. He knew, of course, that some people would be aghast at first. ‘Why on earth would Harry talk about that?’ But he had faith that they would soon see: because someone else already talked about it, and got it wrong,” he adds of the Duke of Sussex’s optimism.
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During a contentious moment in the writing process, Moehringer explained Harry’s desire to be understood.
In one passage, Prince Harry writes of the painful simulation he underwent while in the military: being captured and consequently tortured by terrorists.
“He’s hooded, dragged to an underground bunker, beaten, frozen, starved, stripped, forced into excruciating stress positions by captors wearing black balaclavas. The idea is to find out if Harry has the toughness to survive an actual capture on the battlefield. (Two of his fellow-soldiers don’t; they crack.),” he explained.
“At last, Harry’s captors throw him against a wall, choke him, and scream insults into his face, culminating in a vile dig at – Princess Diana? Even the fake terrorists engrossed in their parts, even the hard-core British soldiers observing from a remote location, seem to recognize that an inviolate rule has been broken,” Moehringer wrote.
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“Clawing that specific wound, the memory of Harry’s dead mother, is out of bounds,” he adds.
Moehringer wrote that one of the participants apologized to Harry when the simulation was over. It’s an incident that significantly impacted the prince, so much so that it caused him and his ghostwriter to come to blows.
“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. Good for Harry that he had the nerve, but ending with what he said would dilute the scene’s meaning: that even at the most bizarre and peripheral moments of his life, his central tragedy intrudes,” Moehringer wrote for the outlet.
He explained that Harry had been begging to include the comeback for months, but that he kept taking it out. At a certain point, Harry was no longer “pleading, he was insisting, and it was 2 a.m., and I was starting to lose it. I said, ‘Dude, we’ve been over this.’”
Moehringer admits to not understanding the significance of the retort, until Prince Harry showed his hand.
“He exhaled and calmly explained that, 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.”
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What Prince Harry did not inherently understand, according to Moehringer, was that his memoir was not about him. The ghostwriter explained to the royal that it’s 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.”
Moehringer won the battle, with Harry agreeing to drop the comeback to the soldiers.
After the release of “Spare,” Moehringer wrote that Harry “was overjoyed by many things.” One of those things being the success of the book.
“Guinness World Records had just certified his memoir as the fastest-selling nonfiction book in the history of the world. But, more than that, readers were reading, at last, the actual book… and their online reviews were overwhelmingly effusive. Many said Harry’s candor about family dysfunction, about losing a parent, had given them solace.”
Despite Harry’s initial will to push the “freedom” narrative forward, Moehringer helped him pivot in a separate direction.
“I couldn’t help obsessing about that word ‘free.’ If he’d used that in one of our Zoom sessions, I’d have pushed back. Harry first felt liberated when he fell in love with Meghan [Markle], and again when they fled Britain, and what he felt now, for the first time in his life, was heard,” he wrote.
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“His family actively discourages talking, a stoicism for which they’re widely lauded, but if you don’t speak your emotions you serve them, and if you don’t tell your story you lose it – or, what might be worse, you get lost inside it,” Moehringer wrote.
“Telling is how we cement details, preserve continuity, stay sane. We say ourselves into being every day, or else. Heard, Harry, heard – I could hear myself making the case to him late at night, and I could see Harry’s nose wrinkle as he argued for his word, and I reproached myself once more: Not your effing book.”