From Stephenie Meyer’s vivid dream that became Twilight to a box of paperbacks Stephen King stumbled upon, some of the biggest authors in the world got their starts in the strangest ways.
NYT best-selling crime novelist Lisa Gardner, who was a waitress, kept setting her hair on fire serving a flaming appetizer. “I took the hint and focused on writing instead,” she told EW.
Lee Child, author of the best-selling Jack Reacher thrillers, told EW, “I had this amazing job in British TV. I’d probably still be there, except I got fired…I knew I liked entertaining people. So I thought, I’ll write a novel. It can’t be that hard.”
After she was invited to join a writer’s group, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison discovered that membership meant she was going to have to produce prose. “I was home and I was thinking, ‘What am I going to write and what do I know?’” the author recounted in a 2016 speech. “And then I remembered an incident from my childhood that I remembered very carefully and what it meant, not just what happened, but what it meant. And then I began to write, and it became The Bluest Eye.”
Japanese writer Haruki Murakami was at a baseball game in Tokyo when an epiphany struck: “I was running a jazz club in Tokyo and I made sandwiches and cocktails for six or seven years,” he told EW in 2014. “All of a sudden, I wanted to write something.”
Fifty Shades of Grey’s EL James got her start writing Twilight fanfiction under the name Snowqueen’s Icedragon.
The horrormeister traced his love of reading and writing to Danse Macabre: “For me, on a cold fall day in 1959 or 1960, the attic over my uncle and aunt’s garage was the place where that interior dowsing rod suddenly turned over, where the compass needle swung emphatically toward some mental true north. That was the day I happened to come upon a box of my father’s books… paperbacks from the mid-1940s.”
Paula Hawkins had to borrow money from her family to make the time to write The Girl on the Train. “If this didn’t work, I was either going to have to go back to being a journalist or come up with something completely new to do. It was the last chance,” she told The Guardian.
Chilean novelist Isabel Allende got her start when she was fired from her job translating romance novels into Spanish. Her offense? She changed dialogue to make the female characters sound more intelligent.
As Stephenie Meyer writes on her website: “It all started on June 2, 2003… I woke up from a very vivid dream. In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire…. I didn’t want to lose the dream, so I typed out as much as I could remember, calling the characters ‘he’ and ‘she.’’
David Foster Wallace
When a college girlfriend told David Foster Wallace that she’d rather be a character in a book than a real person, the remark stuck with him, and he soon began to explore the idea in writing that turned into his first novel, The Broom of the System.