Prince Harry’s ghostwriter: who is JR Moehringer, did he write Spare - what is a ghostwriter?

Before it was even released, Prince Harry’s memoir Spare cause quite a stir

2023 has only just begun and the release of Prince Harry’smemoir Spare has solidified itself as sure to be one of the biggest events of the year - made available to the public on Tuesday 10 January, bookshops saw eager customers keen to get their hands on a copy.

While Spare is told in first person, it wasn’t actually the Duke of Sussex that put pen to paper to write the memoir. Instead, Prince Harry worked with acclaimed ghostwriter J. R. Moehringer.

This is everything you need to know about Moehringer, and what his job as a ghostwriter really entails.

Who is JR Moehringer?

Moehringer, whose full name is John Joseph Moehringer but is better known by his pen name J. R. Moehringer, is an American writer who was born on 7 December 1964 in New York City. He graduated from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1982 before going on to graduate from Yale University in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts in History.

In an interview with NPR, Moehringer said that he grew up “just me and my mother” and that his father “was a rock n roll DJ in New York”.

Author J.R. Moehringer speaks on stage during the 2012 Book Expo America: Adult Book & Author Breakfast at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on June 7, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)

He began his journalistic career as a news assistant at the New York Times before going on to work at other publications like Rocky Mountain News in Colorado and the Los Angeles Times. It was whilst he was working for the Los Angeles Times that he won the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing in 2000, for his article “Crossing Over”, a portrait of an isolated river hamlet in Alabama home to descendants of slaves.

A few years earlier, he had been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing for a different article titled “Resurrecting the Champ”, which was later adapted for the big screen in 2007 starring Samuel L Jackson (The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, Secret Invasion), Josh Hartnett (The Fear Index, Penny Dreadful) and Alan Alda (MASH, Marriage Story).

What books has he written?

In 2005, Moehringer published his memoir The Tender Bar, which recounted his experience of essentially growing up at a local bar. A film version of his book, also called The Tender Bar, was released on Amazon Prime in January 2022. It starred Ben Affleck (Good Will Hunting, Gone Girl) and Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One, Voyagers), and was directed by George Clooney (Ticket to Paradise, Ocean’s Eleven).

After reading The Tender Bar, retired tennis star Andre Agassi reached out to Moehringer to work with him on his own memoir. He told the New York Times that The Tender Bar was “the first autobiography I’d read that didn’t feel like a global press conference”.

In order to write the book, Moehringer moved out to Las Vegas, where Agassi lived, buying a house a mile away from him where Moehringer lived for two years whilst he worked. As a result of his work with Agassi, Open: An Autobiography, was published in 2009. It quickly became a number one bestseller and has been regarded as one of the best sports memoirs ever written.

(L-R) Grant Heslov, J.R. Moehringer, Ben Affleck, Lily Rabe, Tye Sheridan, Daniel Ranieri, and Christopher Lloyd attend the Los Angeles premiere of Amazon Studio’s “The Tender Bar” at TCL Chinese Theatre on December 12, 2021 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

According to Agassi, he wanted to put Moehringer’s name on the cover of Open, stating: “One of my strengths is knowing my weaknesses. Doing a craft like I did for so long at the highest level, you understand the difference between the best and the rest.”

However, Moehringer declined such credit.

In 2012, Moehringer published his book Sutton, which was based on the life of bank robber Willie Sutton, before going on to release another ghostwritten memoir, this time for Nike co-founder and businessman Philip Knight, for his book Shoe Dog in 2016.

Moehringer was reportedly introduced to Prince Harry by George Clooney, according to the Evening Standard, who selected him to ghostwrite his memoir Spare, released on 10 January 2023.

What is a ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter is a person who is hired to write a number of different works, such as books, articles and speeches, which are officially credited to a different person as the author. They are widely used by celebrities and other public figures to write their autobiographies and memoirs, and the involvement of the ghostwriter can range from a few phone calls to intensive interviews.

Writer J.R. Moehringer arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of ‘’Resurrecting The Champ’’ held at the The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Samuel Goldwyn Theatre on August 22,2007 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

For most ghostwriters, the aim essentially is to not be noticed. Michelle Burford, who has written books with the likes of actress Cicely Tyson (The Help, How to Get Away with Murder) and musician Alicia Keys, told the New York Times that “the lion’s share of my job is about getting out of the way, vanishing so the voice of my client can come through as clearly as possible”.