DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Oct 17 2017

Fun Facts About Authors We Love

by Camille B

authors we love 1If you’re an avid reader you most likely have a favorite author; probably more than one depending on the particular genre you’re reading at the time. You enjoy their books and get on the waiting list for their latest release, visit their websites regularly and even sign up to receive newsletters.

And though you may not go overboard like some do with their beloved celebrities, waiting outside their homes and going through their trash to see what brand of toothpaste they buy or try to sell their retainers on E-bay, you’re none-the-less intrigued by them and have a keen and ‘normal‘ fascination with their everyday lives: how they spend their time writing, what inspires them etc.

You’re sometimes tickled by what you find, or even a little surprised. I have to admit I was a little of both as I began doing the research about some of these authors. I found myself laughing quite a bit as I tried to envision some of the things I was reading.

If the authors listed here are any of your personal favorites, you’re probably already versed in everything ‘them.’ For the others I hope you enjoy seeing the human, everyday side of them the way I did.

William Faulkner

  • He never graduated from high school or had a college degree, yet he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, two Pulitzers and the National Book Award
  • H declined a dinner invitation from First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and was quoted by LIFE magazine as saying  “Why that’s a hundred miles away, that’s a long way to go just to eat.”
  • He served as a postmaster at the University of Mississippi for two years but found the job boring. It was reported that he would get there late, leave early, play cards and work on his writing. He eventually quit in 1924 saying, “…I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.” Ironically the United States Postal Service issued a 22 cent stamp in his honor in 1987

Mayo Angelou

  • She moved to Cairo, Egypt in 1961 where she was an editor for The Arab Observer
  • She mastered French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and Fanti
  • She rejected modesty, saying that true arrogance lay in denying one’s own specialness and denying the specialness of others
  • She became the second poet in history to read a poem during a presidential inauguration.  She wrote and read “On the Pulse of Morning” for Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993.
  • She won a Grammy in 1993 in the Best Spoken Word category for an audio recording of that same poem

Beverly Cleary

  • She celebrated her 101st birthday this year (yep, amazing)
  • She had no access to a public library growing up. Her mother contacted the state library and ordered books to be sent to their town and with those books made a makeshift library above a bank where she became the acting librarian
  • She received an initial rejection for her book, originally called “Henry Huggins and Spareribs,” but later it was accepted after she changed “Spareribs” to “Ribsy” and added the characters Beezus and Ramona
  • She baked at the same time she wrote.“I used to bake bread while I wrote.” she says.“I’d mix the dough up and sit down and start to write. After a while, the dough would rise and I’d punch it down and write some more. When the dough rose the second time, I’d put it in the oven and have the yeasty smell of bread as I typed.”
  • She was honored with an elementary school in Portland with her name, as well as a sculpture garden that features bronze statues of Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins and Ribsy the dog

DAN BROWN

  • He was inspired to write thrillers from Sidney Sheldon’s novel The Doomsday Conspiracy
  • He’s always been interested in secrets and puzzles; as a child growing up there were always ciphers, anagrams and other puzzles laying around the house for him and his siblings to solve
  • He gets up every day at 4 am to write, and prepares a smoothie before he begins, comprised of blueberries, spinach, banana, coconut water, chia seeds, hemp seeds and flax seeds
  • His computer is programmed to freeze for 60 seconds each hour, during which time Mr. Brown performs push-ups, situps and anything else he needs to take care of
  • In 2004 all four of his novels were featured in the New York Times Best Seller List in the same week

ALICE WALKER

  • She and her husband were the first legally married interracial couple to live in the state of Mississippi
  • She created and taught the first class in the country dedicated to African-American Women Writers at Wellesley College
  • Her favorite word is “irregardless” and is also on her license plate
  • Some of her favorite music influences are Bob Marley and Sweet Honey in the Rock

MAURICE SENDAK 

  • Where The Wild Things Are was President’s Obama’s choice of children’s book to read over the Easter weekend for the 2016 Easter Egg Roll at the White House
  • The “Things” in the book were based on Maurice’s Jewish relatives and the way he viewed them as a child, they came every week for Sunday lunch and would always tell him he looked so good they could eat him up

DANIELLE STEEL

  • Is not very fond of email and says that she doesn’t trust it “Half the time I send them to the wrong people and the other half I delete.”
  • In 1981 her name made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for having a book on the New York Times best-seller list for 381 consecutive weeks
  • She writes her books on a 1946 Olympia manual typewriter,”I paid $20 for that typewriter at the beginning of my career,” she said “And I’m getting my money out of it.”

LORRAINE HANSBERRY

  • A Raisin in the Sun was originally called The Crystal Stairs
  • Nina Simone wrote a song based on her unfinished play titled To Be Young, Gifted and Black
  • She met Robert Kennedy to test his position on Civil Rights
  • After her death, her ex-husband finished her play Les Blancs
  • A Raisin in the Sun was performed 530 times

ROALD DAHL

  • Was a fighter pilot in World War II and a spy who passed intelligence to MI6 from Washington
  • He never learned how to type
  • He wrote screenplays for the James Bond hits You Only Live Twice and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory was inspired by Cadbury and Rowntree’s, and the secrecy in their development process
  • In 1971, just before the movie was released, a real man named Willy Wonka wrote to him, a postman from Nebraska; the letter and his response to it are part of the display at the Road Dahl Museum and Story Center
  • When he died in 1990 he was buried with some of his favorite things including a power drill, chocolate and HB pencils

MARY HIGGINS CLARK

  • Did not start out as a suspense writer, her first book, a romance called Aspire to the Heavens, was published in 1968 and tells the love story between George and Martha Washington. The book was published again in 2000 as Mount Vernon Love Story
  • In 1981 when President  Reagan was shot, she managed to make her way to the press area where she ended up being one of the few people allowed to ask questions during the event
  • She worked as a secretary for Remington-Rand and sometimes modeled for their catalogs, one time even doing a photo shoot with Grace Kelly
  • Before marrying her first husband she worked as a flight attendant for Pan Am

Rachel Renee Russell

  • Worked as a bankruptcy lawyer before the Dork Diaries took off
  • Her daughters Erin and Nikki helps with the writing and illustrating of her books, Nikki with the illustrations and Erin with the writing
  • She wrote her first book in the sixth grade as a birthday gift for her younger twin brothers

George R.R. Martin

  • Still does his writing with a DOS word processor, Word Star 4.0 (yep, I almost fell out of my chair too)
  • He was a writer and producer on the  TV series Beauty and the Beast in the 1980s
  • He owns his own cinema in New Mexico called the Jean Cocteau Cinema

Nicholas Sparks

  • While writing and trying to sell his first novel he worked at various jobs; a real estate appraisal, home restoration, and various food services
  • The Notebook became a bestseller in its first week of being released
  • The inspiration for the main character in A Walk to Remember was his younger sister Danielle who died from a brain tumor.
  • He has a two-lane bowling alley in his home.

Octavia Butler

  • Was the first science fiction author to win a MacArthur Genius Grant in 1995 which allowed her to buy a house for her mother
  • She was a world traveler and traveled across the globe often while doing research for her writing
  • She moved to Seattle in 1999 and brought 300 boxes of books with her, many of the books she’d had from childhood
  • She grappled with severe writer’s block in the early 2000s
  • She was a fan of Fantastic Four comics and collected them, and also Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels

E.B. White

  • He loved sailing
  • He struggled with writing and procrastination and in an interview admitted to walking around the house straightening and fixing before sitting down to write
  • He fought to keep the animated version of Charlotte’s Web true to the book; the studio wanted to change the ending by not having Charlotte die but he pushed back against it
  • He struggled with anxiety and had trouble meeting new people and speaking in public
  • He had Alzheimer’s disease but according to his family, fought it with grace and humor

Harper Lee

  • Was a Mets fan
  • She kept in touch with her favorite English teacher from high school, Ms. Gladys Watson, and sent her the final draft of To Kill a Mockingbird for proofreading before sending it off to her publishers; after the book was finally published she flew Ms. Watson out to New York City to visit and took her on a month-long trip to England as a gesture of thanks.
  • She initially wanted Spencer Tracy to play Atticus Finch in the Mockingbird movie

James Patterson

  • Worked in advertising before he started writing. He was the chairman of J. Walter Thompson for seven years
  • He wrote his first book, The Thomas Berryman Number, when he was just 26. It received 31 rejections before finally being accepted by a publisher and going on to win an Edgar Award
  • He started the Readkiddoread online movement to help parents find books that their children would actually want to read
  • His favorite book as a child was Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

S.E. Hinton

  • Wrote The Outsiders while she was still in High School; according to her, she had written the novel for herself and hadn’t planned on publishing it, until the mother of one of her friends read a draft and thought it deserved a wider audience
  • Her first Royalty check was for $10
  •  She was involved in the making of the movie The Outsiders, and even made a cameo as a nurse

TONI MORRISON

  • She was born Chloe Anthony Wofford but changed her name because people found Chloe hard to pronounce
  • When she entered the first grade she was the only black child and the only one who could read
  • One of her favorite authors is Jane Austen
  • She was one of the few black editors at Random House
  •  In 1993 she was the first African-American woman to be selected for the Nobel Prize in Literature

TOM CLANCY

  • He was working as an insurance broker when he began writing The Hunt For Red October
  • His wife begged him to give up his writing because she felt he was wasting his time- until she read his book
  • A woman who read the book loved it so much she gave a copy to all of her friends, one of those friends? President Reagan, who publicly complimented the book which went on to be a best seller
  • Of all the actors who played Jack Ryan, Ben Affleck was his favorite

I sincerely wished that I could include all of the authors that you’ve read and loved down through the years in this post, but it’s just not possible, instead I admonish you to check out the vast Biography collection at any of our DCPL branches where you can find many more of your favorite authors to choose from.

Book

 

Why We Write– edited by Meredith Maran

The Writing Life- commentary by  Marie Arana

 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Shantrice October 30, 2017 at 5:34 PM

I really enjoyed reading this post. I think I’ll revisit some of my favorite stories from a few of these authors. Thanks!

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