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Weird Jobs Authors Had Before They Became Famous

While names like Stephen King, Anne Rice and John Grisham are household names these days and associated with their best-selling books, this was not always the case. Even the best writers had to do something to put food on the table while working on their books in their spare time. Here are just a few writers who eventually made it big, but not before they had to settle for jobs that were a little less glamorous than being a full time writer.

Stephen King The High School Janitor

Stephen King is the master of horror and supernatural fiction, but despite writing for fun while still in school, he had to take on odd jobs while studying. One of these was a summer job as a janitor at Brunswick High. One of his tasks were scrubbing rust-stains off the walls in the girl’s shower, which is a memory that stayed with him. While later working at an industrial laundry, King recalled the rust-stains on the walls of the girl’s shower and started forming the idea for his debut novel, Carrie.

Charles Dickens The Shoe Polish Factory Worker

Charles Dickens might be one of the greatest novelists from the Victorian era, but being a literary genius didn’t spare him from ending up working at a shoe polish factory at the tender age of 12. This happened when his father was sent to a debtors’ prison for being unable to pay his debt. His pay was a meager 5 or 6 shillings per week for pasting labels onto pots of blacking. It was a dark time in his life, but no doubt provided him with plenty of inspiration for the bleak situations he would later dream up for his characters in books like Oliver Twist.

Anne Rice The Insurance Claims Processor

The name Anne Rice is almost synonymous with vampire fiction, thanks to her novel, Interview with the Vampire, which also became a blockbuster movie. However, after graduating in 1595, Rice had to drop out of college as she couldn’t afford it anymore. After moving to San Francisco, Rice was able to find work as an insurance claims processor.

Douglas Adams The Bodyguard

Douglas Adams is known for his best-selling The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series of books, but after university, he had aspirations to be a writer for TV and radio. Things looked very bright after he formed a brief writing partnership with Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame, but unfortunately did didn’t last very long. Although he was still writing, he had to take on other jobs to make ends meet and these included being a barn builder, chicken shed cleaner and hospital porter. He even ended up being employed by a wealthy Qatari family as a bodyguard.

Harper Lee The Airline Reservation Agent

To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960 and was immediately successful; eventually going on to become a true classic of modern American literature. The author, Harper Lee, studied law for several years, but never managed to complete her degree. Instead, she moved to New York City in 1949 where she became an airline reservation agent for Eastern Airlines and the British Overseas Airways Corporation. It wasn’t until 1956 when a friend of hers gave her enough funds to survive for a year as a full time writer that she quit her job and started on To Kill a Mockingbird.

John Grisham The Men’s Underwear Salesclerk

With his immensely popular legal thrillers, like The Firm, it should come as no surprise that John Grisham practiced law and was involved in politics for a long time. However, before and during college things were not as glamorous for him and he worked at a nursery where his job was to water bushes. Eventually he was promoted to the fence crew, but left and worked with a plumbing contractor, which he described as being miserable work. Eventually, through a contact of his father, he worked on a highway asphalt crew, until a fight broke out and shots were fired by other members of the crew. The job he found the most humiliating though, was as a department store salesclerk, working in the men’s underwear section.

Nicholas Sparks The Dental Product Salesman

With books like The Notebook, Message in a Bottle and A Walk to Remember under his belt, Nicholas Sparks knows a thing or two about romantic fiction. He penned his first novel while still in school, but it was never published. After failing to attend law school or work with publishers after completing college, Sparks had to turn to less glamorous jobs for income. These include waiting tables, performing real estate appraisals and even selling dental products via phone.

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