Hollywood: Behind the scenes of "Husbands"
Aaron Biedermeier broken star on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood

Hollywood: Behind the scenes of “Husbands”… unveiling untold stories

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Never did I think when I boarded a plane for LA that I might end up sitting in the Starbucks on Sunset with someone whose Hollywood films I’d seen years before. But that’s how the cookie chose to crumble. And that’s pretty much what he did over iced coffee surrounded by people in designer shades and baseball caps, all wishing they were famous too. He crumbled. And I had to decide just how much of his story – if any – would make it to the pages of the novel I was only half sure I had it in me to write.

Creating “Husbands” took me deep into the heart of Hollywood’s glittering facade, revealing the shadows that lie beneath. It was an exploration of dreams and darkness, of ambition and secrets, and of the power dynamics that shape lives in the entertainment industry.

Conversations behind closed doors

My ‘journey’ (yeah, I hate that word too) began when I read an article online written by someone who’d worked in the movie industry, shacked up with a shiny star and found that life was anything but a bowl of cherries. Expecting no response, I found a way to get in touch with the author of the piece, who agreed to talk. And better yet, wanted me to know he wasn’t the only one.

Throughout the writing process, I had the privilege of speaking with younger gay men (I mean everyone is younger than me, these days) whose experiences and insights became the backbone of the novel. These were not just interviews; they were conversations filled with raw honesty and vulnerability. Each man spoke with a strict understanding everything would be ‘off-the-record’ and their names would never be revealed. Their stories were not just about the highs and lows of Hollywood but about the very human struggles they faced.

And then I met with someone who convinced me this was a story that needed to be told. A woman who had worked as a lowly assistant to a prominent director. She recounted the exploitation and abuse of power she witnessed. I’d sort of assumed some of the stories I’d heard came with a pinch of added drama. She disabused me of that notion.

Kyle – the narrator of my story – is naive. He believes in everyone and everything. Even when he’s been let down, he still wants to think there might just be some good out there. He’s based on the men I met and the woman who told it like it is.

Keeping their secrets

Say goodbye to HollywoodThese conversations became the cornerstone of “Husbands,” but they came with a responsibility. The secrets shared with me were not just stories to be told; they were confessions of real people who had entrusted me with their truths.

Balancing the need to tell an impactful story with the promise of confidentiality was a delicate task.I still wasn’t sure I had it in me. I write comedy. Romantic comedy. Darker than most, but still … When I first told an editor of my plans, he laughed and said there was no way I could turn this into anything remotely accessible or readable. It was a full-on drama, he said. Why not call Netflix. I took that to be sarcasm. We had the kind of relationship (and still do) where this sort of thing was allowed.

Crafting the narrative

Turning these stories into a story that wasn’t all doom-and-gloom was a meticulous process. I wanted “Husbands” to be more than just a romcom; I wanted it to be a mirror reflecting the realities many people face but seldom talk about. The challenge was to create characters that were both relatable and symbolic of the broader issues at play.

Kyle embodies the dreams of so many who come to Hollywood seeking fame but find themselves entangled in a web of deceit and exploitation. His journey from being a supply teacher in Birmingham to someone mired in dark secrets mirrors the real-life struggles of those who shared their stories with me.

A story with a purpose

Husbands by Mo Fanning“Husbands” is not just a romantic comedy with dark undertones. I wrote it to shed light on the systemic issues within the entertainment industry. And around about the time it was due to come out, Richard Gadd hit headlines with ‘Baby Reindeer’. What amazed me then was how much effort people put into finding ‘the real Martha’. They didn’t seem to give two hoots about the abusive male TV executive who raped Gadd. He wasn’t the devil. My publicist suggested we try to tie in Husbands with Baby reindeer for marketing, but each time I did this, all I got was yak-mouths going on and on about ‘Martha’. They just didn’t get it.

By exposing the hidden power dynamics and the abuse that often accompanies them, I hope to give a voice to those who feel powerless. God knows, Gadd was trying to tell two stories, but people chose to only hear one.

My goal is to spark a conversation, to encourage readers to look beyond the glamour and recognise the human cost of the entertainment we consume.

Writing “Husbands” has been a journey of uncovering truths and giving a platform to the unheard. It is my hope that through this story, readers gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of Hollywood and feel inspired to advocate for change. For those who shared their stories with me, this book is a testament to their courage and resilience. For the readers, it is an invitation to look closer, to question, and to demand better.

Quote from Husbands

By Mo Fanning

Mo Fanning is a British author of dark romantic comedies including the Book of the Year nominated bestseller 'The Armchair Bride', 'Rebuilding Alexandra Small' and 2022's hit holiday romcom 'Ghosted'.

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