Sean Smith

Bead art by Cornelia Savory I like to listen to recordings by my subjects when I am writing about them, whether it’s Justin Timberlake, Robbie Williams, Britney Spears or Kylie Minogue. I am always trying to strip away the image a little bit to see what’s underneath. Image for these superstars is built up like varnish, layer by carefully applied layer.

I started writing biographies because I hate the superficiality of celebrity reporting in the media and find it much more rewarding trying to piece together a real story, uninhibited by the need to produce a striking headline. I aim to be thoughtful, methodical and have an overall plan. I always try to be positive about the person I’m writing about. Every time you learn something new, it’s exciting. I like to talk to people who are enthusiastic about my subject; people who change the way I feel about a star.

I have a number of researchers in London, LA and New York who help me. They provide background material and possible leads for me to explore when I go out on the road. I like to travel to all the important places in my subject’s life – where they were born and brought up, their schools and colleges, the jobs they had before they became famous and where they settle down when they make it. On the way, I try to find people who knew them to help me draw a portrait of the real person, not just the celebrity image promoted by publicity gurus and glossy magazines.

I never write a book "on the road”, though. I record all the interviews and have a brilliant transcriber, who always manages to unscramble the interview, even when it mainly consists of me ordering Martinis in noisy bars. When travelling, I use a computer for admin – keeping up with e-mails, travel arrangements and friends through Windows Live Messenger.

I then write at home in my study using a desktop computer. I am renowned for wiping off the letters on the keyboard because I write so many words. Friends come round and ask to check their e-mails and then can’t because they don’t know how to touch type and have no idea which letters are which on the keyboard!

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