I found out that all the research in the world doesn’t get you very far — that when you start telling the story, there’s all this stuff you really don’t know. And I had the wonderful perk of being able to call him, sit down with him, every time I came to something and didn’t know what it looked like or smelled like. So it was like writing a novel about an imaginary character, but then being able to call that character and say, ‘What was this like? We forgot to talk about this. Tell me what this person said.’
So really, it was a lot of fun, and it also wasn’t very different from writing my own memoir. When you’re writing a memoir the trick, I think, is to treat yourself as a character — to distance yourself from yourself. You write about yourself in the first person, but you think about yourself in the third person. That’s the only way you can gain any perspective, any clarity, and keep the dogs of narcissism at bay. And then when you’re writing someone else’s memoir, you do just the opposite. You try and inhabit their skin, and even though you’re thinking third person, you’re writing first person, so the processes are mirror images of each other, but they seem very simpatico.