In this interview from May 2002, Nigel talks about all things Kylie, exclusively to LiMBO Kylie Minogue Online, just days before Kylie Naked hit the shops…
LiMBO: I suppose the most logical place to start is to ask you about the delays on Kylie Naked being published and how you became involved with the book?
Nigel: If we go back to when the book was commissioned by Ebury, which must be over a year now, I was one of two authors being considered for the task of writing the book. The other was Jenny Stanley-Clarke, who remains credited as the co-author. I think Ebury decided on Jenny because she had interviewed Kylie back in 1997 whereas I hadn’t. So basically I lost out. The next thing I heard was that the summer 2001 publication date had been delayed for reasons I wasn’t privy to. In December, last year, just before Christmas, I got a call from an editor at Ebury asking me if I was interested in becoming attached to the book as a second author as Jenny’s commitment to her own public relations company prevented her from continuing with the book, and that is when I became involved with the project.
LiMBO: If you were being considered as one of the authors when the book was being commissioned, were you a fan of Kylie’s or was there some other reason you wanted to write a biography of her?
Nigel: If I am honest, no I wasn’t a fan when the book was being talked about. I actually didn’t care for her that much, but was aware and intrigued by her re-emergence and did like some of the material she was doing at the time. I thought she would make a very interesting subject for a biography, because of her history, of being a child actress, more or less growing up in front of the camera, and later of course, in front of a microphone. And now having written about her, I would call myself a fan, yes. And I am not just saying that to sell books. It actually makes no difference to me financially, as I am not on a royalty deal because of the nature in which I became attached as the second author, the ghost writer, if you like. So yes, its one of the joys of writing biography, you sometimes have the chance to educate yourself, to experience and reap new appreciation of someone’s work. And certainly that happened to me when writing this one.
LiMBO: Was the title of Kylie Naked your idea?
Nigel: No, it was already titled that when I became attached. I’m not sure if that was Jenny’s or Ebury’s idea. I kind of like it though, simply because it is a metaphor of what the book is, and although it probably does open itself up to the criticism of being a “tacky” title, I don’t believe it is. As you know Neil, with your help and contribution to the text, I do think we have a very positive book, or certainly that was what I intended to end up with. I do believe any biography should represent an editing of the facts, a selection of detail to make sense of someone’s real life rather than just be a sensational piece to ensure the tabloids serialise it. I am aware that there has been some criticism towards the cover too for again, being considered “tacky”, but again, I kind of like it for being representative, perhaps, of Kylie’s current image. And although the reflective gold foil printed on her dress could again be put into the “tacky” category when describing it to someone, when you actually pick it up, I think it works pretty well.
LiMBO: Was there a favourite period of Kylie’s career that you enjoyed writing about most?
Nigel: Probably the Kylie Fever and Return to Glory chapters, simply because it was a period of Kylie’s career that I was more familiar with than any other. And that was because I was taking more notice of what she was doing as I was pursuing the possibility of writing a book about her. I remember even when I lost out originally to Jenny with Ebury, I talked with some other publishers about doing a book on her. Interestingly enough, they included Michael O’Mara and Blake, who of course, have ended up doing their own books with other authors.
LiMBO: What is your first recollection of Kylie Minogue?
Nigel: When I Should Be So Lucky was released. Probably a time when it wasn’t very cool to admit to liking Kylie Minogue, and also my musical tastes were a lot different then to what they are now! I had also seen her on Neighbours once or twice.
LiMBO: Are you disappointed that Kylie Naked will be in competition with so many other books?
Nigel: Not disappointed. It just makes you work harder to promote the book. If it was the only biography of her out there, then I would probably become lazy and not do so many interviews and the like.
LiMBO: Was there anything that didn’t end up in the book?
Nigel: There were a few paragraphs that were cut out in the editing process. Some similarities that I made between Kylie and Elvis Presley. I try to make comparisons that aren’t obviously obvious! And the story of Kylie snogging Geri Halliwell on TFI Friday was also deleted from the manuscript, which was a shame, because I thought it was just a fun story that illustrated their sense of humour.
LiMBO: Do you think the book will be published in the States because of Kylie’s current success there?
Nigel: I hope so. Not sure what will happen though. It’ll either be available as the UK version but exported out there, or perhaps, if her success is as enormous there as it is here, then maybe the rights will be sold to an American publisher, like St Martin’s Press. But right now, I cannot really tell you. Think that’s a question for Ebury Press.
LiMBO: What do you think Kylie will think of it?
Nigel: Well, I hope she will like it. Nothing is better for an author of an unauthorised work, or come to think of it, even an authorised book, for your subject to applaud your efforts, so yes, I really am hoping that she thinks Naked is both an accurate and positive account of her life and career so far!
LiMBO: I understand that BBC-TV are making a documentary on Kylie and that they wanted to interview you?
Nigel: Yes, that’s right, but I was flying back from San Francisco on the last day of shooting so it was not possible for me to take part.
LiMBO: You were interviewed by Christopher Price on the BBC Choice version of the Kylie Liquid News Special, were you shocked to hear about his untimely death?
Nigel: Very much so. It would be improper of me to make too much comment as I only spent a few minutes before and after the show with Christopher, and my first impression of him, was a god one, and he was such a Kylie fan, or at least that is what came across when we were talking. I am sure he will be greatly missed by all his colleagues and friends. And viewers too. I imagine Kylie would have been very sad to have heard of his death as well. I just feel very fortunate that I was able to be part of his show and had the opportunity to meet with him.
LiMBO: Who have you written about in the past, and did you find any obvious similarities between Kylie and any previous subjects?
Nigel: Kylie is something like my 15th book. I have written about movie stars and rock musicians – people like Cliff Richard, Elton John, Cher, George Michael, The Rolling Stones, and on the Hollywood front – Demi Moore, Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. In fact it is probably with Winona that I found a few obvious similarities with Kylie. Both are child stars growing up in front of the camera, both have suffered breakdowns of sorts from the constant work pressures, both have been stalked, both have had high-profile romances and both have been significant icons to their generation of followers. And oh yeh, they are both tiny, although I’m sure they both get tired of hearing that!
LiMBO: Can you give us a breakdown of what the book is like, as there have been other Kylie biographies that have traded on little more than sensationalism? Do you consider Naked to be a true account of her life?
Nigel: Yes, I do hope that most people who read it, and indeed Kylie herself, will consider Naked to be a true and accurate account of her life so far. But I guess, when writing an unauthorised biography, there are always going to be inconsequential afterthoughts. People think differently and there’s really no way of saying whether things happened in a particular way or not. In many cases, I was writing commentary, and in the absence of any standard objective standard, who knows? You can never tell for sure what happened unless I could have asked Kylie herself, so when I wasn’t sure about something, I would either ask you as my Kylie consultant or went with the version of events that was the most documented.
LiMBO: Kylie is famous for keeping her private life private, to the extent that her friends don’t even call her Kylie! Was this a problem when it came to writing her story, and do you think that the public figure we see is radically different to the private one?
Nigel: It is always slightly more difficult writing about someone who is intensely private, and I certainly think Kylie is just that. As you say, even her friends don’t call her Kylie. And yes, I do think the public Kylie is radically different to the private one. I’m sure, as she has indicated in several interviews, that when she’s home, the stiletto heels come off and the slippers go on. But I guess we will never be privy to that private side of her until she wants to share such intimate moments with her public.
LiMBO: Were you, or are you now, officially a Kylie fan?! And what do you make of her fans, as she has quite a die-hard fanbase?
Nigel: As I have mentioned earlier, I have become a fan since writing the book, and as for the fans, I think from those I have met or spoken with, they seem like a really good bunch of people, and I am hoping to meet more as I go around promoting the book.
LiMBO: Kylie has been famous around the world for almost 15 years. Was it difficult to research and properly cover such a long career?
Nigel: It could have been without the help of your good self and the LiMBO site – that was just so great. I remember spending a whole day (and night!) working on the discography, because Kylie’s discography is a complicated one at best, so I was really pleased when you came up with the one we now have in the book. I think it also helped that you directed me to write more about Kylie’s deConstruction period as it was an area of her career that had not been truly covered before, so to answer your question, yes it would have been a lot more difficult without your help and input as my Kylie expert, researcher and advisor.
LiMBO: She’s now bigger than ever, and very much in the big league with people such as Madonna and Janet Jackson. What do you think she possesses to make herself this famous, but also what she has to make her stand out from these others?
Nigel: Difficult to answer, really. I think Michael Parkinson asked her much the same question, what it is about her that has made her survive while others have fallen by the wayside. Kylie said she didn’t really know, and that she was more comfortable not knowing. I think part of it though is how she has the ability to reinvent herself into whatever she wants to be. It has probably been over stated now, but all the different Kylies we have had through the years have probably contributed to her current success.
LiMBO: As you will have discovered when writing the book, Kylie has been criticised over the years probably more than any other solo performer. How do you think she managed to deal with that and come through it seemingly such a nice person? Or is she really that nice?
Nigel: That’s a really good question, because it is something I have asked myself when I was writing the book. I think much of it is down to no matter how much criticism is thrown at her, and there was a great deal of it during her early career, she just gets on with the job in hand. I am still somewhat surprised that she has come through much of it unscathed and unaffected, of how she has avoided the many pitfalls that others fall into, to end up this seemingly nice person. And yes, I do think she could be that nice. Everything I have heard from others who have met her convince me of that. Watch any interview with her and I think that comes across every time. The Frank Skinner Show, I think, is a good example of that. It’s that display of genuine honesty and being herself that I think attracted me to want to know more and certainly write about her.
LiMBO: She sometimes projects an image of being hyper-sexual or hyper-feminine, but where other female artists have been labelled ‘tarty’ she seems to constantly avoid this. Why do you think that is?
Nigel: Simply because she does it very much in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, sort of with a wink in her eye, and a message of ‘isn’t this fun?’ There are some, I guess, who would label her tarty but if you take a look at any of her performances it’s a role she plays and one that she plays very well. It’s not a pose or put-on but something quite natural and completely unique to her. I see that Holly Vallance is trying to do much the same thing. I watched her on CD:UK recently, and it was obvious from her performance that she was trying to emulate what Kylie does but without that same end result.