Butcher, baker, candlestick maker. Almost every author started off with another job before they became a published author. Many maintain another career outside of writing, even after they become successful authors. Earlier this week I was following a thread on one of the social networks where some “anonymous” contributor thought that authors had the easiest job in the world. I thought that odd, having written professionally at times and having found a big difference between writing and writing for the public. But it got me thinking, what did authors do as a job before they were published? I thought it might be interesting on this Labor Day weekend to celebrate the men and women of letters by asking that question and taking a look at some famous writers from the past from a labor standpoint.
Raymond Chandler worked as an oil company executive, a civil servant in England, and a book keeper before writing his first short story, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot.”. Ernest Hemingway worked as a newspaper reporter and an ambulance driver in Italy in World War II before starting his life as an author. Pearl S. Buck worked as a missionary in China and as a school teacher before East Wind:West Wind in 1930. William Somerset Maugham studied medicine.
Here’s an interesting video from David Corbett, Edna O’Brien, Peter Blauner, Patricia Bosworth, James Salter, Luis J. Rodriguez, and Susan Dunlap, courtesy of Open Road Media:
Among other contributing authors is Mark Terry, the author of the Derek Stillwater thrillers, who worked as cytogenetics technologist at Henry Ford Hospital and says, “My day job now is as a freelance nonfiction writer and editor.
New York Times bestselling author Eric Jerome Dickey “worked for an aerospace company as a software developer, then as a substitute-teacher when I was transitioning into writing. Nine years spent at the former, around four at the latter.” He tells me,
“Nights as an aspiring comic lasted through both occupations and probably doesn’t carry as much weight. But hanging out at comedy clubs and taking classes did teach me a lot about writing, as did being part of a lot of student films in the Southern California area, and both helped a lot when I entered the writers program given by UCLA extension. I would leave one job and get home and start the second as a writer. Even before I was published I gave myself deadlines. I learned that from both college and days as an engineer. Every project must have a deadline.”
Betsy Dornbusch, the author of Archive Of Fire: Sentinel worked as a full time mother. When I asked her which was the harder job she said, “They both involve dealing with unruly uncooperative characters.” Valerie Douglas, author of Song of the Fairy Queen says, “I was a supervisor for the testing lab of a retail electronics store, a software sales/installer, worked for a title agency, taught adult continuing education, and was a portrait artist.”
Southern Romance writer Tom Williams, the author of A Slow Return to Skinny Dipping says, “I raise wine grapes. Not fancy but it pays the bills.” Mike Faricy, author of the hilariously funny Dev Haskell Detective Novels says, “ I worked for a bank, was in sales in the graphic arts forever, worked in XXX for ten years (No, the distribution side), ran a couple of my own businesses, oh, and I write. Like most of us it’s too bad I have to sleep every so often.”
Polly Iyer who writes the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense novels, amongst other works “…started off as a fashion illustrator for Women’s Wear Daily, switched to illustrating storyboards for TV commercials, then partnered an importing and design wholesale and retail business (home furnishings store), and last but best, writing suspense novels. It took me this long to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.”
Maria Kuroshchepova, the Russian/English translator and author of A Child in Translation: Ukrainian Vignettes tells me, “I work as a forecast data analyst for Bank of America. In addition to writing, I also translate, illustrate, design book covers, blog, review books and games, make art and jewelry, and help my husband run his business. CLEARLY, I need to find something for myself to do.”
So, there you have it. just a few hard working authors and what they did and in some cases, continue to do. Authors, writers, and scribes everywhere are not only hard workers, they are laborers, but a very important part of the work force. Happy Labor Day.