Here is a confession. Back in the mid-1990s, when I was in my early teens and spending my weekends buying Dolly magazines, reading Sweet Valley High novels, staring longingly at the clothes in Miss Shop and hanging out at the local skating rink with my best friend Hayley, I was also hiding a dark and sinister secret that I didn't dare reveal to anyone. A secret so dark that it stayed firmly in my closet until one day ...
I was old enough to laugh about it.
My secret was this. I was a closet fan of Isla Fisher, the red haired star of Australian soap opera Home and Away. And when it was revealed in TV Week that nineteen year old actress was also an author, I just had to read her book. Eagerly, I devoured the sample chapters that appeared in Dolly the following month and begged my mother to buy me a copy for Christmas. (Mum obliged and also bought me a copy of Isla's second novel, Bewitched.)
Eagerly, I read Seduced by Fame from cover to cover. This was the story of a young woman who, like Isla, was plucked from obscurity to appear on her favourite soap opera. Wow, I thought. It must have been so realistic, because Isla was an actress, and Jade Silver, the heroine is an actress too. And she must be pretty damn smart, to be able to work on a television show and write books.
Afterward, I eagerly opened the cover on Bewitched. And pretty soon, I realised something.
I had been tricked. Two people were credited as authors on the inside cover and on the copyright page. Confused, I turned back to my copy of Seduced by Fame. Sure enough two people were credited on the copyright page as well. Isla had not written either book all by herself at all, despite her name and her photograph being on the covers. In fact, the writing style of Bewitched was slightly different. (Suggesting that the young actress had more help with her second novel than her first.) But this was explained in a letter from Isla at the back. Apparently, she was so busy with Home and Away that she had to get her mum to research Bewitched and then to help her write it. And they were working on another book together, titled Ebony and Amber which was to be able identical twins who are separated at birth but meet each other when they grow up and swap places.
Isla Fisher wasn't the first celebrity and she wouldn't be the last to co-author a book and get a larger share of the credit. (And the whole thing was still a damn sight more honest than hiring a ghostwriter, which is still how the majority of celebrity autobiographies find themselves published.) For me, it was an awakening, a realisation that sometimes the people that marketed products could leave out important details that might make their products less interesting to the lucrative teen girl market. The books must have sold reasonably well in their day though, neither of my copies (which I still own, and are now highly collectable,) are first editions. (At least the numbering system at the front would suggest they are not true first editions.)
And what of Ebony and Amber? A comprehensive search on the internet has failed to produce any evidence of the book ever making it to print, though an amazon search proves that it did have an ISBN and was meant to have been released in June 1996. (Read more here.) Isla's mother, Elspeth Reid went on to write another children's book with a different Australian publisher, titled The Secret Pony and according to wikipedia now lives in Greece. Isla Fisher is now, of course, a reasonably well established Hollywood actress who has appeared in comic roles in films such as Wedding Crashers and Confessions of a Shopaholic (as well as a few smaller and serious roles in films such as The Lookout,) and will be appearing as Myrtle Wilson in an upcoming version of The Great Gatsby.