We talked to Douglas Wight, co-author (with Jennifer Wiley) of Hot Right Now: The Definitive Biography of Rita Ora about the book that he created and brought to market in less than 3 months, his curiosity surrounding pop culture and his thoughts on a possible new model for self-publishing.
1. You’ve enjoyed a long and varied journalistic career in which you reported on world disasters as well as international celebrities. Were the biographies you authored and ghosted a natural progression to this?
Yes, in a way. I was lucky enough that some of the projects I was asked to do came about from contacts I made as a journalist, or developed from articles I’d written for newspapers.
For example, I had interviewed the actress Emily Lloyd, famous for her role in Wish You Were Here, and when she mentioned she’d like to do a book one day I offered to help her. Other people I was put in touch with through a news agency I built up a good relationship with during my time at the News of the World.
2. What interests you about pop culture and its prevalence in today’s society?
I’m fascinated by the figures who transcend the talent that first made them famous. Lots of people enjoy periods of success through acting or singing but few are able to reinvent themselves or adapt to move into other areas. Rightly or wrongly pop culture seems to dominate the news agenda. I think often too much importance is given to it but hopefully books like our Rita Ora biography can offer some insight into a leading personality.
3. How do your research and writing processes differ based on the subject of each book?
It all depends on the subject. Obviously ghosting someone’s memoirs means your primary source is your main priority. Everything else is secondary. With a celebrity biography it’s a case of building as complete a picture as you can from their own words and then trying to speak to as many people as possible to bring as much life to the character as possible. With every biography the goal is to unearth something new.
4. What are your thoughts on the rise of self-publishing as opposed to traditional?
I think it can only be a good thing. Greater opportunities are opening up for self-publishers and more diversity surely has to be positive. You only have to look at the way traditional publishers are changing their model to adapt that it is having an impact. It won’t work in every case but for the right book self-publishing can definitely be an option.
5. Any advice for those beginning careers in long-form journalism and ghostwriting?
Be passionate. If you are enthusiastic about a subject or have an idea for a book go for it. People have an innate desire to tell stories so whether you’re the ghost enabling someone else to share their experiences or investigating a subject or topic don’t hold back. A good story told well should always find an audience.
Read more about the Rita Ora book, it’s timely publication and whitefox’s role in bringing it to market here.
Read Doug Wight’s article in The Bookseller on his experience of bringing the book out here.