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Famous Authors Who Went Through Serious Hardship

While everyone is familiar with the image of artists, such as painters, suffering for their work, they are by no means the only ones. A few very fortunate authors became overnight success stories but for many, it was a long and arduous path. Here are just a few examples of writers who went through darker times than you might have realized.

Lauren Hillenbrand - Author of “Seabiscuit”


Seabiscuit: An American Legend, by American author Laura Hillenbrand, not only won the William Hill Sports Book of The Year, but also went on to be adapted as a feature film starring Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges. Her next book, Unbroken, also became a bestseller and got a film adaptation. However, Hillenbrand wrote the two books when she fell ill in college with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Her condition left her unable to complete her degree and she rarely left her house. This was devastating for Hillenbrand as she used to be a very active person who played tennis, cycled and even played football. For the first ten years of her sickness, Hillenbrand was shunned by family and friends who simply thought that she was lazy. Although she is still ill, she did manage to overcome vertigo. She managed to leave Washington D.C. for the first time in 25 years and also started to ride horses and bicycles again. 

Charles Bukowski - Author of “Post Office”


Charles Bukowski moved to America with his family in the early 1920s. Because of his strong German accent, along with the clothes he was forced to wear by his parents, he was seriously taunted by other children. Bukowski also suffered regular beatings with a razor strop at the hands of his father.  This caused him to become even more socially withdrawn. To make matters even worse, the young Bukowski suffered from an extreme case of acne during his teens, which required painful treatments. Although he had dreams of becoming a writer, Charles faced rejection at every turn and grew so disillusioned that he stopped writing for nearly ten years. Bukowski almost succumbed to a bleeding ulcer, spent time in prison for suspected draft evasion and attempted suicide with a gas stove before his work started getting the recognition it deserved.

Paulo Coelho - Author of “The Alchemist”


Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho, is best known for his bestselling novel, The Alchemist. It was a runaway success that not only catapulted him towards becoming the best selling Portuguese-language author of all time, but was also translated into more than 80 languages. However, his success did not come easy. At age 17 his parents committed Coelho to a mental asylum. Apparently they were not very keen on his idea to become a writer. Paulo escaped from the institution three times and was eventually released after three years. He enrolled in law school to please his parents and gave up on his aspirations to become a writer. However, after only a year he dropped out, started using drugs and was eventually arrested by the ruling military government who thought that his activities were subversive. Paulo decided to change his life after a spiritual awakening and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Jean-Dominique Bauby - Author of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”


Jean-Dominique Bauby is not only the author of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but also author and editor of ELLE, the popular fashion magazine. Bauby suffered a massive stroke when he was only 43 years old, which left him in a coma for 20 days. Although he woke up, he was left completely paralyzed except for the ability to blink his left eyelid. His condition was so bad that he lost 60lb in the 20 weeks following his stroke. However, Bauby managed to overcome all odds and write his book, one letter at a time, by blinking at an assistant reciting the alphabet over and over. Sadly, Bauby fell ill and, only 2 days after the publication of the book in 1997, died of pneumonia.

J.K. Rowling - Author of “Harry Potter”


It is hard to imagine that Joanne Rowling, better known as J.K. Rowling, was a struggling writer once. The best-selling author of the Harry Potter fantasy series had to go through serious hardship to get where she is now. Although she loved books from a young age, her teenage years were quite unhappy due to her mother falling ill with multiple sclerosis. Her mother died ten years later, while Rowling was writing her first book, and it had a huge impact on her writing. While writing Harry Potter, Rowling got married, had a miscarriage, suffered from alleged domestic abuse,fell pregnant and ended up separating from her husband. Without a job and having to care for an infant, Rowling became clinically depressed and even contemplated suicide. Eventually she was forced to sign up for welfare benefits. Her big break only came after many rejections, when the daughter of the chairman of a publishing house read the first chapter of Harry Potter and immediately wanted to read more. Even then, Rowling was advised to get a day job as there was no money in children’s books, but thanks to fans of her work she quickly rose to stardom.

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