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Celebrity Ghostwriter Nancy French

Ghostwriter to the Stars

By James Bennett

Feb. 18, 2017

High-profile political figures and celebrities trust Columbia's Nancy French to tell their story.

Celebrity Ghostwriter Nancy French
    Milwaukee County, WI, Sheriff David Clark (Facebook)

The wife of David French, who came close to running for president in 2016 as a conservative independent candidate, has ghost-written books with high-profile figures such as Bristol Palin, Sarah Palin, former "Bachelor" Sean Lowe, Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson and actress Stacey Dash.

"I just ask my subjects, 'Give me everything you have, and I'll give you back the best version of you,' " French said.

French's latest book on Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Sheriff David Clarke comes out Feb. 28.

Three of her books landed on The New York Timesbest-seller list and turned her into a go-person for conservatives who need clarity and personality in putting their thoughts and unforgettable moments into print.
"Once you get a New York Times best seller in the conservative world of politics, you're asked to do more," French said. "People will look at their books and say, 'Oh, Sarah Palin's ghostwriter is this person.' They'll call my agent and set it up.
"I didn't know David Clarke, known best for wearing the big cowboy hat and boots and for being plain talking on crime and race," she added. "I did not know him from anybody. His people called my people, and we worked out a deal."
"Cop Under Fire: Moving Beyond Hashtags of Race, Crime & Politics For a Better America" was published by Worthy Publishing of Nashville. French spent two weeks with Clarke as he campaigned for Donald Trump in the presidential election.
"When I wrote about Sarah Palin, I spent a month with her in Alaska," French said. "Now I tell my subjects that I am not going to do that with them so it will not sound so intimidating. I made two one-week trips to Milwaukee to spend time with Sheriff Clarke.
"What I do with celebrities is just stick with them," French said. "You eat breakfast with them. You go to work with them. You meet their kids. You meet their wives. You go to church with them. You see what the details are like. You get to know everything about them."
French, 42, and her husband were opposed to Trump's candidacy, with National Review columnist seriously considering a White House run with substantial backers led by influential conservative editor Bill Kristol. Some of David French's commentaries were among the most scathing against Trump before he won the Republican nomination.
"Donald Trump provided a plane for Sheriff Clarke and I to go somewhere," French said. "I literally was on a Trump plane, writing a book about Sheriff Clarke while everything was swirling around us."
Some Trump supporters threatened the French family for their outspokenness and for considering a presidential run. Nancy considered one to be a death threat. Clarke advised her to learn to carry a gun.
On the other hand, Clarke was one of Trump's biggest supporters. After voting for President Barack Obama in 2008, he became a Republican. He spoke at the 2016 GOP convention, opening with the words, "Blue Lives Matter."
"Sheriff Clarke has been a faithful and adherent supporter of Donald Trump," French said. "He did a great job, talking about the law-and-order aspects of Trump's platform."
On Friday, Clarke tweeted his support for Trump, whose "Make American Great" campaign led to his Electoral College victory over Hillary Clinton.
"Michelle Obama said she was never proud of her country til they elected her husband POTUS. I've never been prouder since we got rid of him," Clarke wrote.
Later Friday, Clarke was in Orlando, Fla., when a woman told him he should take off his "Make America Great" baseball cap.
"Told her she should go get her money back for her ugly haircut. That ended THAT! Mic drop!" Clarke wrote on Twitter.
"The People's Sheriff," as Clarke calls himself, has charisma in spades, French said. He wears cowboy boots because his uncle, Franklin Clarke, played for the Dallas Cowboys after being taken by America's Team in the 1960 NFL expansion draft.

"He wears cowboy boots and a hat, and walking around Milwaukee with him is amazing because of his charisma," Clarke said. "He is mobbed like a celebrity. He speaks the truth plainly and a way that is resonate. He speaks what Americans believe. If he thinks something is true, he will say it in the most dramatic and forceful way possible.
"He's gotten in trouble for controversial statements in the past, and probably will in the future," French added. "But he's generally saying what most people believe, and that's why he is so popular."
In the book, Clarke talks extensively about racial issues and "Back Lives Matter," a movement that emerged in wake of police shootings in America.
"The chapter on Black Lives Matter that is so eye-opening and brilliant about that organization, even if you're not a Sheriff Clarke fan," French said. "It's worth the price of the book itself just to read that chapter. He's also an expert on national defense and terror."
French said she's unsure whether Clarke aspires to higher political office either as a governor to replace Gov. Scott Walker or as a member of Trump's cabinet.
"You may wonder why he is the way he is," French said. "He's so emphatic that everyone take responsibility for themselves, which is a great American attribute."
Clarke's father, a paratrooper with the 2nd Ranger Infantry Company, raised him in an environment of trust. He used to let Clarke pack his parachute at age 8.
"He knew if he made a mistake, his dad would die," French said. "Finding out that was very poignant to me."
French became close to many of her subjects, including Palin, the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate, and her daughter Bristol.
"I love the Palin family," French said. "I have talked to her 10 times in the last six hours. We collaborate on a lot of things. I love my clients so much. As a ghostwriter, my relationship with them is somehow like a counselor, somehow like a best friend, somehow a confessional like a priest. It's all of those rolled into one. And I am responsible for making their story as enticing as possible.
"The one thing I don't like about ghostwriters is they get close to celebrities and do tell-all books," she continued. "I get close to celebrities and appreciate them so much. I develop this close relationship. I have a very close and trusting relationship with everyone I have written about."
When John McCain chose Palin as his running mate in 2008, she only had been governor of Alaska for two years. Some thought she was not ready for prime time, but French disagreed with that analysis.
"She was perfectly capable of being rolled out when she was rolled out," French said. "The press hates strong political women who are conservative. They did everything in their power to assassinate her character and her intelligence.
"No woman has been treated like Sarah Palin in the history of American politics," she said. "It's reprehensible what the press did to her. I don't think the McCain campaign handled it properly. There were many who supported McCain because of Palin. She was a breath of fresh air. I hate all that happened to her. I hate seeing the affect of politics on a family."
French knows the impact of politics on a family first hand. She was criticized for a book she and David wrote about his experience in Iraq. Media outlets erroneously reported she and her husband came to an agreement that she would not use e-mail or social media while he was stationed in Iraq.
In "Home and Away," a book co-written by the two, they revealed they set up rules for their marriage to keep it strong while French was gone. A Harvard educated attorney, French went to war as an Army reservist in 2007.
"I am thankful for freedom of speech," Nancy said. "We complained a little bit because we wanted people to see the underbelly of what was going on at the time.
"Some of the stuff written was just flat wrong, like the stuff about our e-mail and social media while David was away. We did talk about how our marriage would stay strong while he was deployed in Iraq. The unknown story of the war was, people would land in Iraq and be greeted with divorce papers. It was awful. Men would be at war and look on Facebook and see their wives with another man. So we did not have to worry about what was happening at home, we just made some basic rules. The liberal media got a hold of it and make me out to be subservient, which was asinine. I am a professional person. I was working three jobs while David was away at war."
French said she was proud her husband was considered as a presidential candidate. She said she was just as proud that he turned down the opportunity.
"It wasn't the right thing to do," French said. "It was the right thing to consider it. It would not be good for America for David French to run for president and affect the race in the way he undoubtedly would have. I am thankful David is the kind of man who can decline power. He is a really great, rare person. He is very smart and not seeking the limelight."
David and she write from their home in the Zion community of Columbia. Their daughter, Camille, was the valedictorian for the Class of 2017 at Zion Christian Academy.
"We don't even have a home office," she said. "He writes from the bedroom. We stuck a desk in there. I write from the kitchen. We're happy in Columbia, writing."
The presidential campaign experience came in handy for her next book. Instead of ghostwriting a biography, French is writing a novel about a woman and her family unwittingly pulled into national spotlight when her husband decides to run for president.
"It's based on what happened last summer, but it is not the actual events," French said. "I'm going to have some fun with this one."


James Bennett is editor of The Daily Herald. Contact him at


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