Prince Harry's Bombshell Memoir 'Spare': What to Know About Ghostwriter J.R. Moehringer and His Hollywood Ties
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Prince Harry had some help when it came time to pen his memoir. Ahead of its release, Spare has already been a headline-making endeavor, largely thanks to J.R. Moehringer, the book's ghostwriter.
In early excerpts of Spare, Harry writes about not wanting his father, King Charles, to marry Camilla, Queen Consort; driving through the tunnel where his mother, Princess Diana, died in 1997; watching his wife, Meghan Markle's, sex scenes on Suits; and having an alleged physical altercation with his brother, Prince William.
It wasn't just Harry who was got all of those bombshells and others down on paper, though. J.R. was there through the whole process, taking the royal's life experiences and weaving it into the book that's due out Jan. 10.
Keep reading for more on who J.R. is and how his history could have impacted Spare.
J.R. Is a Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist
J.R. was raised by a single mom between Long Island, New York, and Scottsdale, Arizona. He graduated from Yale University in 1986.
J.R. landed his first journalism job at The New York Times and later worked at outlets including Rocky Mountain News and The Los Angeles Times.
In 2000, while at the California-based publication, J.R. won a Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing for "Crossing Over," his portrait of Gee’s Bend, an isolated river community in Alabama where many descendants of slaves live, and how a proposed ferry to the mainland might change it.
George Clooney Is Rumored to Have Introduced J.R. and Harry
J.R. published his memoir, The Tender Bar, in 2005. The book tells the story of J.R.'s childhood and adolescence; he grew up with an absentee dad and spent much time at a neighborhood bar with his uncle.
George Clooney directed the 2021 film adaptation of J.R.'s memoir, in which Ben Affleck played the author's uncle. Given that George and his wife, Amal Clooney, attended Harry and Meghan's 2018 wedding, many have speculated that it was the Hollywood star who introduced the royal to his eventual ghostwriter.
J.R. Has Ghostwritten Twice Before
The author and journalist is known to have ghostwritten two other figures' memoirs -- tennis great Andre Agassi's Open in 2009 and Nike co-founder Phil Knight's Shoe Dog in 2016.
It's the former book that may hint at what's to come in Harry's Spare, as it touched on a complicated father-son relationship.
Andre, J.R. and Harry are all familiar with that dynamic, though in different ways. The athlete's dad was "hyper-present," the author has described his absentee father as an "unstable mix of charm and rage" (per The Evening Standard), and the royal has been open about recent disagreements with his dad.
During a 2012 interview on NPR's Fresh Air, J.R. explained how he and Andre bonded over their complicated relationships with their dads, presumably something the writer and the royal were likewise able to see eye-to-eye on.
"My father was absent and Andre's father was kind of hyper-present, breathing down his neck. And those two things felt kind of the same," J.R. said at the time. "They just felt off balance and so he got me in that way and he read himself into my story that way, but with him, I mean, I was able to imagine what it would be like to have a father that you can't relate to."
J.R. Views Ghostwriting as a 'Collaboration'
During his 2012 NPR interview, J.R. opened up about the process of ghostwriting, which he called "the purest kind of collaboration."
"We built a narrative and we found an arc," he said of working with Andre. "I think there's an arc in everyone's life, but I think we're all too close to our own lives to find it."
The men got to work by beginning "a long really wonderful conversation" about Andre's life, which "worked like therapy," according to J.R.
"He dug deep, and together we found patterns and themes in his life," J.R. said. "... Once we'd amassed this enormous -- it was like 1,100 or 1,200 pages of transcript -- then we dug through it together and we found themes together."
J.R. likened the process to "writing a novel about an imaginary character, but then being able to call that character and say, 'What was this like? We forgot to talk about this. Tell me what this person said.'"
"When you're writing someone else's memoir," J.R. explained, "... you try and inhabit their skin and even though you're thinking third person, you're writing first person."
Both J.R. and Harry Have Lost Their Mothers
J.R.'s mother, Dorothy Moehringer, died in 2019. In The Tender Bar, J.R. described his mom as "a woman who could be gentle, and fragile, but who would assuredly be fierce when protecting those she loved."
Harry has spoken about his own late mother similarly, praising Diana for having compassion, confidence and warmth in Netflix's Harry & Meghan, while also marveling over how she often stood up to the paparazzi to protect her sons.
"And I am my mother's son," Harry said proudly.
Spare is due out Jan. 10.
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