Martin Roach, ghost writer to the stars
PUBLISHED: 15:06 09 February 2011 | UPDATED: 16:46 20 February 2013
In our celebrity-obsessed culture theres a hunger to delve ever further into the private lives of the rich and famous.
One of those who pieces together and brings to the autobiographical pages the candid stories of many musical and sporting figures and their high octane lifestyles is Shropshire-based celebrity ghost writer, Martin Roach.
The 40 year old relatively young in ghost-writing circles has, to date, 102 books to his name, selling more than 1.5 million copies and with a number of top five bestsellers, including the recent number one bestseller for pop band, Westlife.
The list of the great and the good that trip off his tongue as past projects makes for an interesting mix. Early commissions included Hugh Cornwell of The Stranglers and Luke Goss, one half of brother singing duo Bros; whereas more recent autobiographies include Rick Wakeman, former keyboard player of Seventies rock group, Yes; Formula One driver David Coulthard and the Take That story, Now and Then.
Growing up in Stourbridge in the West Midlands and immersed in its thriving music scene of the late Eighties and early Nineties, Martin set up Independent Music Press in 1992 so that he could publish the biographies of the alternative, fledgling local bands he came across.
After the first few books I stopped writing for my own label as I realised it would look like a bit of a personal venture, but by then Id become known to Harper Collins and the like who contacted me to write for them. I was quite prolific in the early days and wrote about 80 biographies under various pseudonyms.
Martin was first approached about ghost writing about nine years ago. For any who may scoff at the notion of a ghost-written autobiography he is quick to come to the defence. The analogy I use is if you watch a brilliant documentary and its the most amazing life and story, you wont say its less of a documentary because the subjects didnt film it themselves. So if someones got a great story and cant write it themselves, it doesnt make it any less of a story if ghost-written.
While getting into the heads of the celebrities, finding their story and then telling it through their voice is not always an easy task, Martin has enjoyed some fantastic experiences and built up lasting friendships in the course of his oeuvre over the years.
One of the nice parts of the job is building a rapport. Youre not someone who is going to expose their seedy or bad side; you are there to write their story so the trust is there from an early stage, he says.
In the case of Westlife, Martin had four voices to deal with. I knew from agents who work around them that they used to be hard partying Irish men and work exceptionally long hours and also have a deceptive knowledge of music, which you wouldnt necessarily give them credit for because they are a so-called boy band. I decided I wanted to investigate that more.
It was difficult because you have four opinions that dont necessarily agree and four people who think they have an equal voice in the book and also four voices as they come from different parts of Ireland.
A self-confessed petrol head, when Martin was approached to pen the life story of David Coulthard he didnt hesitate for a moment.
Two weeks later I flew to Monaco and there I was talking to David about fast cars. I didnt know how it was going to work. I thought he was this private, McLaren, Hugo Boss iceman, whereas most of the time he was just making silly jokes; he was fantastic. We had some great conversations about the notion of fear. Hell drive a Formula One car for instance yet is frightened to stand up in front of a crowd and give a speech.
The hardest part of the job is to get their voice right, Martin continues. The inclination if you do it badly is to caricature them. Westlife would end up sounding like Father Ted and Coulthard like Taggart, so you have to be subtle. I always say if their mum reads it and doesnt know where I appear and where their son or daughter does, then Ive done my job.
While Martin travels the world, trailing the celebrities, going on tour with them and snatching valuable hours amid their hectic schedules to sit them down and chat, its at his home office in Church Stretton, where he lives with his wife and two young sons, that its all put to page.
I do love living in Shropshire and from a writers perspective its brilliant because of the scenery and relaxed atmosphere. I lived in London until about five years ago and my word count went up massively when I moved to Shropshire because life is less cluttered, he notes.
He has just finished the story of Eighties pop princess, Page 3 girl and recent Celebrity Get Me out Of Here contestant, Sam Fox. Its quite a thrilling and bizarre tale, he says. She started modelling at 16 and pre-dates the entire Heat/Jordan generation, in many ways she's a throwback to the 1950s movie stars and yet she's still in her early 40s and has lived a life like no other I've written about. Superstar boyfriends, money traumas, playing to crowds of 70,000 in Delhi, armed guards in the Middle East. She was the second most photographed woman behind Princess Diana at one point... it's been an absolute blast!
Never laying his pen to rest for long, Martins next project is the story an international rugby captain and its irrelevant whether or not hes a fan of the sport. If you want to read the score, look in a paper or go online. A good autobiography is the story behind that, the character traits and highs and lows so the specifics of their career are almost inconsequential.
My Shropshire life
What's the best thing about Shropshire?
The scenery. And the pace of life here, it's perfect for word count.
What's your favourite restaurant?
The Jaipur an Indian in Church Stretton that is the best curry house in Britain.
Where do you like to go and enjoy a pint?
My vice is caffeine and a Venti cup of filter at Starbucks, Meole Brace is almost a pint of coffee.
There is a real community down there and I often write books set against the white noise of the tills.
Where's your favourite spot in the county?
The Long Mynd and Cardingmill Valley.
Who is your favourite musician/ group to have hailed from Shropshire?
Ian Hunter of recently reformed Mott the Hoople; I publish his seminal Diary of a Rock n Roll Star tour memoir and its a classic read!