I am reading My Time by Bradley Wiggins, which is a most excellent telling of the last couple of years of his life. I notice on the back cover it is ‘shortlisted for the British Sports Book Award for best autobiography’. But is it an autobiography? It clearly states in the publicity and inside the book ‘with William Fotheringham’ and credits him in acknowledgements ‘for help with the book’. Given that he is such an accomplished author himself I began to wonder how much each had contributed. A little doodling on the web ensued. The ever (un)reliable wikipedia page for Fotheringham shows it in his list of books written, although to be fair his profile on Amazon and at Vintage Books doesn’t. So, did Fotheringham ghost-write the book from interviews with Wiggins, maybe? An extensive book review at podiumcafe reveals that the book ‘sees the side-burned one dump former ghost-writer Brendan Gallagher (Daily Telegraph) in favour of William Fotheringham (The Guardian) as he jumps from the publishing house of Hachette to Random House’s Yellow Jersey imprint’.
Not directly connected, but by coincidence I was looking something up in John and Anne Nuttall’s ‘The Tarns of Lakeland’ and came across this in the section on Alcock Tarn (which is just above the Wordsworth home) ‘the creativity of William’s seems to merge with hers’ [Dorothy’s]. Dorothy’s diary records ‘… he wrote the Poem to a Butterfly! ….. I told him I used to chase them a little, but that I was afraid of brushing the dust off their wings’. The subsequent poem includes ‘But she, God love her! feared to bush – The dust from off his wings‘. The Nuttalls conclude ‘The way in which Dorothy sees, sometimes her very words, are transcribed by William into poetry. But is the creativity his or hers? She had the vision, he turned it into verse, and when her flame died then his died too’. In later years William Wordsworth wrote nothing of note.
Other extremes are the fact that best selling author Tom Clancy has also branded several lines of books with his name that are written by other authors, and there is also the ‘who wrote Shakespeare’s works’ saga (read Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare on that subject). So, did I write every word in It’s a hill? Obviously not, as it is primarily a history, and includes content directly quoted from other sources. I also freely admit to being guided by my two critical friends at the writing stage and by my editor at Sandstone. Their advice was mostly on structure and writing style, and they are duly credited in the acknowledgements. The words and creative input are all mine. At the end of the day it is the quality of output that should be remembered really.