Anyone who has authored a book on Michael Jackson and was spurred on to do so by a deep, grateful adoration of the man and a desire to seek justice for him will tell you how motivations such as these are not conducive with the wishes of the Michael Jackson Estate. They will say how when writing their book, they made the conscious decision to sacrifice financial gain at the expense of honouring their principles. They will explain how their books are – truly – labours of love fuelled by wanting – no, craving – to disseminate truth in an effort to counteract misinformation promulgated by the Estate.
I learned this the hard way.
To be clear, I do not regret having written The First Book of Michael. On the contrary, composing the blog that became the book was a wonderful experience. It involved my forging deep, lifelong relationships with fans of a like-minded ilk; friendships that flourished out of a mutual understanding of the importance in protecting and promoting Michael Jackson’s truthful legacy.
I’ll also freely admit to having revelled in the praise my words garnered, with comments I received from people who had been close to Michael – in which they admired my apparent spiritual affinity with him – making me feel nothing less than ecstatic. The way such reviews lifted my heart and encouraged my passion for writing was – and I mean this with absolute sincerity – all and more I could have asked for as recompense for my efforts and sacrifice.
In the introduction to The First Book of Michael, I write how the “book is my heart”. And it truly is.
What I am about to divulge is not some indulgence in martyrdom, nor is it an attempt to elicit sympathy. I’m not sure what it is, to be honest; but I feel compelled to put it down nonetheless. Perhaps it’s merely an expression of closure; an acknowledgment of discovering clarity at the end of an arduous journey.
You see, the months I spent collating and editing the blog into something that resembled coherence were some of the darkest periods I have ever lived through. With naive determination, I was entirely convinced that the efforts I ploughed into the book would ultimately prove worthwhile.
This obsession with seeing the project through resulted in the relationship with the mother of my daughters disintegrating into irredeemable animosity; a heartbreaking consequence of this being prolonged periods in which I was refused access to my beloved children.
Writing the book became a double-edged sword. But I had gone too far to turn back. I existed alone in a dark, rented room: my sole raison d’être being the book’s completion. I didn’t have a job. I ended up months behind with rental payments. I began hiding from my live-in landlord, keeping my curtains closed during the day and creeping out at night. I became anxious. I became depressed. I became homeless. I sacrificed everything in faith that the eventual benefits would make all the suffering worthwhile.
It can be hard to remember who oneself is whilst enduring hardship, and I’m so happy that I will forever have the book as a record of my positive intentions and bravery in times of real pain. Indeed, I look forward to the day when my daughters can read it for themselves.
Whilst I certainly possessed no aspirations of overnight wealth and stardom, I must confess that in the back of my mind there existed the quiet hope that writing the book might lead to opportunities through which I could embark on a fruitful career doing what I love.
Upon publication, however, these dreams were instantly, brutally rendered redundant.
I had pre-empted the release date with increasingly-excited promotional blog posts counting down to what should have been a joyous occasion. Instead, it became the day my work fell prey to coordinated, premeditated sabotage.
Perfectly timed to inflict maximum damage, a tongue-in-cheek article I had written years previously for an alternative music magazine was unearthed and widely distributed amongst the Michael Jackson fan community. An insidious witch hunt ensued in which I was maliciously attacked on social media using images of my children. I was slandered as a hater. My estranged children and my late hero. My desperately missed and lamented loves – the crutches I’d relied on to embolden my determination to complete the project – suddenly became the very things used to undermine me and my work.
My naivety concerning the depths the powerful, paranoid Estate patsies would dive to in order to discredit a book on Michael Jackson contrary to their propaganda was ruthlessly exposed.
Aspirations annihilated. Time I could have spent with my two young children forever irretrievable.
Sales figures were negligible. It was an excruciating anticlimax. My bank account was closed down due to debts incurred as I’d struggled and failed to make ends meet whilst writing the book.
Still, I persisted. I refused to be bullied and chose to throw all my energy into promotion that would counteract the actions of the saboteurs.
I was fortunate to find a friend who watched as I doggedly continued in efforts to make some sort of success of the book. Out of kindness and as a last ditch attempt at promotion, my friend funded a trip to Italy to appear at MJ Day. It was a beautiful occasion. But it marked my acceptance of defeat.
Yet, the obsessive, incessant online promotion I had been undertaking had been the sole factor keeping me (just about) emotionally afloat. My relinquishing hope for the book and acknowledging its failure left me utterly distraught. Life spiralled from bad to unbearable.
It has taken me two years to fully recover.
I sometimes entertain the idea of one day publishing a polished, updated version of The First Book of Michael, one that incorporates the many blog posts I wrote subsequent to its publication. But I’m not ready for that yet. It has taken time and space to be able to reflect upon the experience with any sense of objectivity at all.
Battle-scarred I may be. But I’m also rested, wiser, empowered and eager.
Eager to resume my role as a thorn in the Estate’s side.
As Michael once put it: I’m right back where I wanna be.