15 Writers With Lives More Interesting Than Fiction

Throughout history, writers have led interesting lives, with a lifestyle that offers room for exploration and adventure. These creative types often have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, tumultuous relationships, and even mental instability. Whether studying the subject in a prestigious Pennsylvania university or just reading for recreation, literature fans may enjoy learning about the interesting lives of writers that created the books they love, and we’ll explore a few of them here.

  1. Ernest Hemingway: One of the members of the “Lost Generation,” Hemingway was an ambulance driver during World War I, bull runner, a heavy drinker all of his life and an American expatriate in Paris. He married four different women, and was almost killed in two different plane crashes while on safari in Africa. He ended his life by shooting himself with his favorite shotgun at his home in Idaho, and it’s believed that he had a genetic disease that causes mental and physical deterioration over time.
  2. Sylvia Plath: Born in Massachusetts, Sylvia Plath is said to have been obsessed with death and deterioration, and it’s not surprising, given that her father died when she was eight, sparking her first attempt at suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. When she was 30 years old, she finally succeeded in killing herself by gas oven.
  3. Oscar Wilde: Oscar Wilde’s life is most often noted for his notorious homosexuality, which was extreme in the Puritanical Victorian era. He was taken to trial three times for homosexuality, and was accused of sodomy, but acquitted, only to be sentenced to two years of hard labor at a new trial. At that point, his marriage fell apart, he lost his sons and friends, and was declared bankrupt, publicly humiliated.
  4. Mark Twain: Mark Twain, who was born in Florida, wasn’t just a writer, he was a gold prospector, steamboat pilot, journalist, and famous lecturer. He served in the American Civil War and even formed a Confederate militia group that was almost immediately disbanded. He was fascinated with science, and developed a close friendship with Nikola Tesla, even visiting with Thomas Edison. He died of a heart attack one day after Halley’s Comet came closest to Earth, as he predicted.
  5. William Shakespeare: There are not many records to document William Shakespeare’s life, but there is plenty of speculation. Some believe that there may have been two Annes that were Shakespeare’s wives, and his first daughter was born curiously early. There may also be evidence that Shakespeare worked as a government informant for Queen Elizabeth I, and that Shakespeare the playwright and Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon could have been two different people.
  6. Mary Wollstonecraft: Mary Wollstonecraft was not only a writer, but a supporter of women’s rights; however, her several unconventional personal relationships received more interest than her work. She had two ill-fated affairs, one of which produced her first daughter. She married William Godwin, one of the forefathers of the anarchist movement, with whom she had a child, later known as the accomplished writer Mary Shelley. She died ten days after her birth.
  7. Carson McCullers: Carson McCullers overcame great troubles to become an accomplished writer, but it has been noted that she only grew stronger in her afflictions. She became friends with the likes of Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams. McCullers endured emotional struggles, attempting suicide, and then fleeing her husband who tried to convince her to commit suicide with him. She suffered from strokes since her youth, and contracted rheumatic fever at 15. She was entirely paralyzed on her left side by the age of 31, and died in New York after a brain hemorrhage.
  8. Edgar Allan Poe: Edgar Allan Poe spent his life as a struggling writer, experiencing great financial difficulties. His death is surrounded in mystery, and no one is really sure what happened in his final days, with some pointing to alcoholism, mugging, or rabies.
  9. Jaroslav Hasek: The Czech author Jaroslav Hasek had an adventurous life as a journalist, bohemian, and practical joker. He founded an anarchist party, promising a pocket aquarium to each of his voters. Hasek was also fired from a job as a subeditor of a zoological journal for writing about imaginary animals and alcoholism in animals. He joined the Red Army, and became a bigamist, which made it difficult for him to find a publisher for his works. He died unexpectedly from tuberculosis contracted during the war.
  10. Jack London: Jack London: Jack London is believed to be the illegitimate son of astrologer and journalist William Chaney. His life included working as an oyster pirate, a member of the California Fish Patrol, a gold prospector, and journalist covering the Russo-Japanese War and the Mexican Revolution. His death is rumored to be a suicide, but his death certificate gives the cause as uremia, a painful death commonly caused by kidney stones.
  11. Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s life was beset by illnesses, opium dependency, marital problems, and a lack of confidence. He suffered from crippling anxiety and depression, which he increasingly treated with opium, which possibly led to his death of heart failure with an unknown lung disorder.
  12. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald had a playboy image, and he and his wife Zelda had an extravagant life as young celebrities. He was a notorious drinker, but he always wrote sober and carefully. His marriage to Zelda eventually deteriorated while she underwent psychiatric treatment, and he was unable to maintain a home for his daughter, who went to boarding school and was taken in by a surrogate family. He went to Hollywood and maintained a relationship with movie columnist Sheilah Graham despite his benders. He was eventually dropped by MGM, and died of a heart attack at Graham’s apartment.
  13. Nathaniel Hawthorne: Nathaniel Hawthorne descended from John Hawthorne, a Salem Witch Trial judge. He was a reclusive person and remained so with his equally reclusive wife Sophia. On their first anniversary, Hawthorne helped to recover the corpse of a drowned teenager, which sparked a scene in the Blithedale Romance. In his later years, he traveled to Washington DC at the beginning of the American Civil War, and met notable figures including Abraham Lincoln. He died in his sleep while on a tour of the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
  14. Jack Kerouac: Jack Kerouac lives on as an icon of American coolness, and was a major part of the “beat” generation. He roamed back and forth across the US, carrying around his unpublished novels. He ended up with a surprise sudden celebrity when On the Road published to tremendous success, and he developed a severe drinking habit in an attempt to live up to the wild life he’d presented in the book. His health was destroyed by drinking, and he died in Florida at 47 years old.
  15. Ralph Waldo Emerson: Emerson led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century, and was a bold individualist and contrarian. He was committed to abolition, and gave public antislavery addresses to support his beliefs. It is believed that he may have been bisexual, and attracted in particular to a man he met at Harvard, who he wrote sexual poetry about.