In 1971 Deirdre Bair was a journalist and recently minted PhD who managed to secure access to Nobel Prize-winning author Samuel Beckett. He agreed that she could write his biography despite never having written – or even read – a biography herself. The next 7 years of intimate conversations, intercontinental research, and peculiar cat-and-mouse games resulted in ‘Samuel Beckett: A Biography’, which went on to win the National Book Award and propel Deirdre to her next subject: Simone de Beauvoir. The catch? De Beauvoir and Beckett despised each other – and lived essentially on the same street. While quite dodging one subject or the other, and sometimes hiding out in the backrooms of the great caf?s of Paris, Bair learned that what works in terms of process for one biography rarely applies to the next.