News broke this week that Keanu Reeves, the actor best known for film series such as The Matrix and John Wick, will be releasing a new novel in July, entitled The Book of Elsewhere. With his announcement, Reeves stated “If you read it, I hope you love it.”
This is not the first time the actor has forayed into the literary world. His release of the comic book series BRZRKR in 2021 was met with second and third installments in 2022 and 2023, respectively. BRZRKR was co-created by Reeves with author Matt Kindt, and artist Ron Garney. Similarly, The Book of Elsewhere was not written solely by Reeves, but in collaboration with author China Miéville, a writer of fiction and non-fiction stories who has numerous accolades.
A Larger Issue
The collaboration of Reeves with established authors and artists to create published books raises questions of a larger issue within the literary world. For decades, actors have attempted to turn their artistic prowess to the world of novel writing. Since 2020, however, there has been a significant increase in actors turned novelists promoting works on which they didn’t necessarily put pen to paper. These actors are giving their skeleton of ideas to ghost writers who then do the massive amounts of work it takes to create the novel. Such actors include Tom Hanks, Ethan Hawke, and Millie Bobby Brown.
Brown, in particular, was met with instant backlash for the release of her novel, Nineteen Steps, in 2023. Although the idea for the novel came from Brown — based on the life of her grandmother during World War II — the book was ghostwritten by author Kathleen McGurl. Brown was instantly criticized as “taking credit” for McGurl’s work, with many people believing it should be McGurl’s name on the cover.
What This Means for the Aspiring Author
As an aspiring author myself, I know the feeling I was instantly met with when Millie Bobby Brown — a nineteen year old actress who is already rich and famous — released her debut novel in September. I was instantly deflated by the idea that this young girl, who has already achieved so much, now also managed to complete and publish a novel, something I have been trying over and over again to do for years.
Then, to find out that the book was not in fact written by her, but instead written by a ghostwriter who sold their services and allowed her to put her name on the cover of something she did not even write, was infuriating. It is disconcerting as a writer to see the publishing industry reduce the immense work of authors to something that can have anyone’s name slapped on the cover, so long as they have an established brand to back them up and ensure the publisher gets a bestseller.
But Let’s Get Back To Reeves
Despite the backlash of ghostwritten novels, it seems to be a practice that is becoming more accepted despite the haziness surrounding the actors’ involvement. Some actors turned fiction authors have supposedly had more involvement in the creation of their novels, but often use ‘collaborations’ like the one Reeves has announced to ensure the work gets done to the appropriate level of professionalism required by the publisher.
The reality of collaborations like Reeves’ and Miéville’s, however, is that it will be impossible to know how much of The Book of Elsewhere was actually due to Reeves’ ability as a writer. So, in the future, actors like Reeves and Brown will likely continue to push fiction works, flooding markets with publications that have their names on the cover. The effects this phenomenon could have on the book industry are impossible to know, but as a writer, it is just another example of already rich celebrities using the power of branding to become even richer and more influential.
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