Ghostwriter John Woodhouse will be in conversation with former England cricketer Graeme Fowler on Wednesday 5 June as part of this year’s Festival programme.
John is a well-respected columnist and feature writer well known for his entertaining, insightful, and sensitive journalism on wide-ranging subjects from current affairs to politics, entertainment and sport.
But how did he find himself working with sports stars and a former Doctor Who? We asked John to tell us about what led him to the world of ghostwriting.
“Strangely, I won a competition as a kid in The Cricketer magazine to interview my favourite cricketer. That was Graeme and the subsequent piece was printed in the magazine.
“Thirty years on, and Graeme was active on Twitter talking about his mental health issues. I wrote another piece for The Cricketer about how I now respected him on that basis. He saw it and invited me to write his book.”
Graeme Fowler was known as one of the most exciting batsmen in Test cricket, and later as a groundbreaking coach. Former England captain Andrew Strauss says that Fowler was “the man who turned me from a recreational cricketer to someone who believed he could play professionally.”
Yet in the words of another former England player, Mike Selvey, Fowler’s greatest work may be in the area of mental health. The first book John wrote with Graeme Fowler was Absolutely Foxed, which shared the cricketer’s own experiences of depression.
“We knew mental health would be at the heart of the book,” John explains. “But we wanted it to be lively and funny too, to reflect Graeme’s usual personality.
“I had been a journalist so was well-versed in interviewing and writing pieces on behalf of interviewees as if in their words. Ghostwriting uses essentially the same techniques but on a much more in-depth basis. A lot of it is about being able to write but equally it is about being able to forge relationships.”
Mind Over Batter
John’s new ghostwritten book with Graeme Fowler is Mind Over Batter, which the two will discuss at the Festival and which takes a broader view of mental health in sport and beyond.
“The idea was to talk about mental health in both sport and everyday life. None of the books I’ve done – with Graeme, Steve Harmison or James Taylor – has been strictly about sport. They have a wider appeal for anyone interested in mental health and, in James’s case, surviving a near death experience.”
But if you’re an aspiring ghostwriter looking for a way in, where should you start? John’s advice is simple but practical.
“Read lots of autobiographies – you will soon form your own opinion on what works and what doesn’t.”
There’ll be more straightforward advice on becoming a ghostwriter from John Woodhouse at his Derby Book Festival Ghost Writing Workshop on Saturday 1 June.
You can also book tickets now for In Conversation with Graeme Fowler at our What’s On page.