Here at Flavorpill, we love a good story. And while we generally get our fix from novels and short stories, sometimes the lives of the authors are just as fascinating as the lives of the characters they create (some of them even have biopics — or more than one — to prove it). After all, artists are prone to eccentricities, creative problem solving and, let’s face it, tragedy, all qualities that make great protagonists as well as interesting people. Click through to check out our list of authors whose true life stories we think would make fantastic novels (we’ve focused on those who haven’t written autobiographies or exact novelizations of their own lives), and then be sure to add to our list in the comments!
Sometimes the characters who are “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” make the most compelling protagonists. While we can’t say we’re not itching for a novelization of Byron’s famous romantic exploits, we’d almost rather read a book about his school days — which might feature the story of how a young Byron, new to Cambridge, had to send home his beloved dog when school officials cited rules against keeping canines. Not to be outdone and apparently desperate for furry companionship, Byron instead acquired and kept a tame bear, having found no mention of bears in the official statutes. When the administration protested, Byron even tried to apply for a fellowship for the bear. Hilarious hijinks at university with a dastardly young Casanova? Sounds like a bestseller to us.
Abandoned by her father before she was born, Acker grew up at odds with her domineering mother in an upper-middle class Upper East Side home, dreaming of becoming a pirate. That could be a novel right there, if truth be told, but Acker’s life only got more interesting — in the ’70s she worked as a stripper while gaining repute in underground literary circles and eventually became a punk icon and an incredibly important and powerful force in feminist and transgressive fiction. In 1996 Acker was diagnosed with breast cancer, and died a year and a half later in room 101 of a cancer clinic in Mexico. As her friend Alan Moore said, “There’s nothing that woman can’t turn into a literary reference.”
No comedy here — the novelization of Mishima’s life story would be all Shakespearean tragedy. A model and actor as well as an important author, Mishima was famously obsessed with his figure, weight training three times a week without fail and becoming a kendō expert. In 1970, Mishima attempted to incite a coup d’état, was mocked, and then committed seppuku — some have even suggested that the coup was only a cover to allow Mishima to attempt the ritual suicide he had always wanted for himself.
William S. Burroughs
Do we even have to explain why we’d want to read a book about the life of William S. Burroughs? We’d imagine it would read kind of like Naked Lunch, but peppered with a who’s who of the coolest writers, artists and musicians hanging out in Paris and Greenwich Village in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Also, it would probably be slightly less insane — but then again, maybe not.
We know what you’re thinking — didn’t Emily Dickinson just sit in her house all day, every day? Well, yes, but done correctly, we sort of think that’d be a fascinating book, considering how brilliant and strange Dickinson’s interior life was. We’re imagining a “Yellow Wallpaper” sort of situation, but with more letter-writing.
Marquis de Sade
Move over, 50 Shades of Grey. Time to get serious.
Strong, sexy French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette certainly lived life to the fullest — a music-hall dancer by night and prolific author by day, she had affairs with women (even kissing another woman on stage at the Moulin Rouge, which was trés scandalous at the time) and men (including her own stepson), and somehow wrote about 50 books in there. Plus, the lady lived to a ripe old age, content, wealthy, nearly universally regarded as France’s greatest female writer, and married to a younger man who was insanely in love with her. That sounds like a happy ending to us.
One of the most flamboyant, witty and well-loved figures in literary history, we would love to read a comedy of manners starring Wilde, as he charmed and wrote his way to the top before tragically being cut down by indecency charges (levied by his lover’s father) at the height of his popularity and sentenced to two years’ hard labour, from which he never recovered. It sort of reminds us of The House of Mirth, actually.
The famously eccentric, attention-hungry party boy was definitely a complicated figure — he knew he wanted to be a writer from age 11, which is no common thing, and turned out to be a great one. He was best friends with Harper Lee (until she won a Pulitzer and he didn’t), and well respected across multiple social circles, but also tended to fabricate stories about friends and use invitations to his epic, legendary parties as bait and bargaining chips. He lived both the high life and the low, and was such a fascinating character that we couldn’t help but stay submerged in any book about his life.
A true Southern Gothic heroine who thwarted her doctors’ life expectancy predictions thrice over after being diagnosed with lupus, what we really want is to read a novel about O’Connor’s relationship with her birds. Come on. She had over 100 birds. Don’t you want to hear more about that?