Literature First Book Successes Written By People Who Weren't Authors  

Jacoby Bancroft
1.6k views 14 items
Apparently anyone can write a bestselling novel. Sometimes all it takes is passion, or encouragement, or a desire to tell a certain story, or even just an inspired dream. Some authors on this list started later in life, others gained famed at a young age, but all of them had successful first novels right out of the gate that launched their careers. All of them didn't intend to be authors, but the world is lucky that they told their stories.  

Mary Shelley is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list First Book Successes Written By People Who Weren't Authors
Photo: Freebase/Public domain

First Book: Frankenstein

The author of one of literature's defining horror entries, it's not surprising that Mary Shelley had a rough upbringing. The future Frankenstein writer was dealt a huge blow at a young age when her mother passed away. Things got worse when her father married Mary Jane Clairmont, who must have been the inspiration for Cinderella's wicked stepmother. Later in life, Mary Shelley struggled financially and lost her first child only a few days after her birth. A year after that, while enjoying time with her family, the group was dared to try writing their own horror stories. With her history, it's clear she had a lot of inspiration.

Also Ranked

#42 on The Best Writers of All Time

#2 on The Best Female Authors of All Time

#26 on The Best Science-Fiction Authors

#49 on The Best Novelists of All Time

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Stephenie Meyer is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list First Book Successes Written By People Who Weren't Authors
Photo:  Gage Skidmore

First Book: Twilight

Have you ever had a dream that you thought you could turn into a gazillion-dollar franchise? That's what happened to Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight series. She had never published anything before, and didn't even see herself as a writer, but was determined to publish her own book after a vivid dream inspired her to write about an average girl caught in a love triangle between a vampire and a werewolf. She took advice from Janet Evanovich's website and doggedly persevered until she found a publisher. The rest is history.

Also Ranked

#47 on The Most Powerful Women In The World

#51 on The Best Romance Novelists of All Time

#53 on The Best Young Adult Authors

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Ken Kesey is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list First Book Successes Written By People Who Weren't Authors
Photo:  jdxyw

First Book: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, took his traumatic past and turned it into a best-selling novel. While enlisted in the army, Kesey volunteered for a study where he was given mind-altering drugs and asked to report on their effects. He also later worked in the psychiatric ward at a hospital. Witnessing firsthand the results of psychedelic drugs, he decided to write a story about it. The book was responsible for kickstarting the conversation regarding mental illness and certain treatments, and was eventually turned into an Academy Award-winning movie.

Also Ranked

#39 on The Greatest American Writers of All Time

#17 on The Most Psychedelic People Ever

#9 on The Greatest Artists With Only One Masterpiece

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J. K. Rowling is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list First Book Successes Written By People Who Weren't Authors
Photo: Daniel Ogren/via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

First Book: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

One of the most influential female writers alive today, it's shocking to discover that J.K. Rowling struggled to find a purpose for her life. After divorcing her husband, Rowling moved to England with her young daughter to be closer to her sister. While there, Rowling was on welfare and had trouble supporting herself and her child. One day she came up with an idea for a story about a young wizard with a lightening bolt scar on his forehead while on a train and she quickly got to work on writing her first novel. After being rejected several times, she finally was able to sell the rights to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone for a small sum of $4,000. Now Harry Potter is one of the most well-known fictional characters in the world.

Also Ranked

#66 on The Best Writers of All Time

#16 on The Most Inspiring (Non-Hollywood) Female Role Models

#66 on Famous Women You'd Want to Have a Beer With

#5 on The Best Female Authors of All Time

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