Absolutely True Lies: A Novel

by Rachel Stuhler

(Touchstone, $15.99, 323 pages)

Who is this author?

Rachel Stuhler moved from the East Coast to the West Coast to pursue her fascination with books and movies. She has been a script supervisor, a screenwriter and a ghostwriter for three celebrity memoirs (no, she is not revealing which ones). She also has written more than 20 movies for TV, including scripts for McBride, the Hallmark and Lifetime channels and Ion.  This is her debut novel.

What is this book about?

Drawing on her own experiences in Hollywood, Rachel Stuhler has written a funny yet cautionary tale about the inner workings of stardom.  Holly Gracin, a writer seeking but not finding success, gets a big break: ghostwriting the memoir of an 18-year-old pop star (think Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, though Daisy Mae Dixson is a fictional character.)  It’s not surprising, of course, that Daisy Mae’s virginal image is a poor cover for her wild-child behavior, posing all sorts of problems for Holly, who was not hired to write an expose. As Holly struggles to present Daisy Mae in a flattering way, her subject has a very public meltdown and Holly finds herself with a new task: fixing her soiled image. Can Holly pull that off, and at what personal cost?

Why you’ll like it:

Stuhler writes with insider knowledge and cutting humor, making this a very entertaining read and adding a layer of reality to the fictional fun. Here are some things she told Jerseygirlbookreviews.com:

“. . . It’s an amalgam of my experiences both working on film sets and then later, as a ghostwriter myself. I took the jobs to make ends meet while writing my own projects and it didn’t always go well! I had a few lovely clients and a few who treated me less than humanely. I started writing the book as a way to deal with my frustrations. Beyond that, I wanted people to see that the Hollywood they “know and love” is quite different, for better and worse. There are very normal people here, but we’re paid to make things look shiny and larger-than-life; this sometimes warps our own perceptions, too.”

And here, to give you a sense of her style, is how Stuhler introduces Holly to her readers:

“The day I graduated from Sarah Lawrence with my degree in creative writing, my mother told me, “Holly, in a few years, you’ll be so famous they’ll be asking you to give the commencement address. ” She was wrong. Four years after graduating from college, I was twenty-five and writing for a magazine in Los Angeles that was so tiny they practically had to pay people to read it. It was supposed to be an insider view of celebrity life, but TMZ and Radar Online can pay top dollar for their inside scoops and we had an operating budget of about seventy-five cents. Meaning that no one wanted to talk to us. Not to mention, the readers Kragen Publishing so desperately sought were not the ones who routinely scoured newsstands for celeb gossip; everything the teen and twenty-something set wants to know about the latest scandals is up in fifteen minutes. Our site was perpetually down for maintenance, which was perfect for our sixty-five-year-old readers, who didn’t know the first thing about computers, anyway. My boss once told me that our magazine was purchased most by widowed housewives who also happened to be buying the National Enquirer. “

What others are saying:

Library Journal says: “One only needs to tune in to the evening news or check out the cover of a magazine to see yet another teen celebrity go from America’s sweetheart to a hot mess in no time flat.  Stuhler’s debut tells one such story. Tapping in to her personal experience working in Hollywood as a screenwriter and ghostwriter, the author crafts a salacious world in which Holly Gracin, mid-20s and struggling to make a name for herself as a gossip writer, is hired to ghostwrite the autobiography of Daisy Mae Dixon, a teenage pop star who is nothing like the Goody Two-shoes she portrays in public. Despite the rampant corruption and evildoers in their Hollywood milieu, Holly soon finds out the truth behind Daisy’s manufactured persona and is thrown into a world of sex, drugs, and plenty of misery. When Holly flies to Italy for an on-location shoot, Daisy teeters on the edge of self-destruction and Holly must find the strength to stay true to herself. VERDICT An enticing glimpse into the celebrity lifestyle, this first novel is a solid beach read that will cause readers to feel sympathy for child stars. Stuhler’s personal experiences add an extra layer of intrigue that is sure to draw in readers.”

Says Kirkus Reviews: A struggling writer suddenly finds herself at the center of a young starlet’s world. Life in Los Angeles has taken a turn for the worse for entertainment writer Holly Gracin. After losing her job at Westside Weekly when the magazine suddenly folds, she briefly dedicates her life to self-pity and binge eating. She’s just about ready to pack up and move home to upstate New York when she’s offered an exciting and somewhat terrifying opportunity: the chance to ghostwrite the memoir of Nickelodeon teen star Daisy Mae Dixson. Though Holly questions her qualifications for this task, which is well outside her comfort zone, she’s easily persuaded by the promise of a payday that would dwarf her yearly income. Daisy Mae is famous for her squeaky-clean good-girl image, but the façade quickly begins to fall away as Holly is swept into her world. While it might seem great to live like the Hollywood elite, Holly begins to see the real Daisy Mae, who is struggling with overbearing management and impossible standards and has an attitude that would horrify most of her young fans. Still, Holly is supposed to write a cheery and vapid memoir, a job that becomes increasingly difficult the more she gets to know the Dixson family and staff. Soon, Holly, who couldn’t get past security with her press credentials for Westside Weekly, finds herself in the tabloids as part of Daisy Mae’s entourage. When Daisy Mae’s outrageous behavior creates a scandal poised to destroy her career, the memoir gains new weight as part of her packaged atonement. While Daisy Mae feels like a composite of some familiar Hollywood starlets, the novel, with its frequent twists and turns, still feels fresh. Stuhler uses her own experience as a ghostwriter for the Hollywood elite in this fun and satisfying behind-the-scenes debut novel.”

The Hollywood Reporter says: In what can best be described as a mash-up of Entourage and The Devil Wears Prada, Absolutely True Lies by Rachel Stuhler emerges as the kind of juicy read that is perfect to whittle away a summer day. . . [or a winter one!]  Inspired by Stuhler’s own experiences as a ghostwriter (she has three celebrity memoirs under her belt), Daisy bears traces of a number of troubled young stars, including Selena Gomez, Lindsay Lohan and even Justin Bieber. . . With over twenty TV movies and three ghostwritten celebrity memoirs under her belt, Stuhler is no stranger to Hollywood, and the book offers both that insider peek and a pretty sympathetic first-hand account of the personal costs of fame.”

When is it available?

No lie. It’s at the Downtown Hartford Public Library.

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