9 books by some rather young creatives

Not us, unfortunately – a bit of inspiration for the writers out there…

Here’s a selection of authors from across the centuries who had their first books published before they hit 25. Get writing and join their ranks!

The Young Visiters – Daisy Ashford

Written in a school exercise book in 1890 when Daisy was just NINE years old (yes, really), The Young Visiters was published in 1919; the book was printed almost exactly as Daisy had written it (spelling mistakes and all, including ‘visiters’) and Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie wrote a preface for it. Conspiracy theories would later circulate that the whole thing was actually an elaborate hoax cooked up by Barrie, but regardless of the rumours, the book was a huge success and later adapted for the stage and screen (including a BBC version starring Jim Broadbent and Hugh Laurie).

Fact: Writer and critic Edmund Wilson once referred to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side Of Paradise as ‘a classic in a class with The Young Visiters’.

The Chronicles of Narmo – Caitlin Moran

Written when Times columnist Caitlin was 15, The Chronicles of Narmo tells the story of the Narmo family and is based heavily on Caitlin’s own unconventional childhood.

In her own words: “I wrote a book when I was fifteen because I suddenly realised that I had absolutely no employment prospects whatsoever. It took a year to write, and sold out it’s print run – can’t remember how many that was. It was Number One on the Wolverhampton branch of Dillon’s chart. That’s all that counts.” (Read the rest of our INSPIRED interview with Caitlin here.)

The Worst Witch – Jill Murphy

Based in part on her own schooling experiences, Jill Murphy first began writing The Worst Witch as a teenager. After graduating from the Chelsea and Croydon Art Schools, she continued writing the book, and saw it published shortly before her 25th birthday in 1974. There are currently six books in The Worst Witch series, with the most recent being published in 2007. Jill also wrote the Large Family series, as well as a host of other picture books.

Fact: Jill wrote part of The Worst Witch whilst living in a village in Togo, Africa.

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

One of the original Gothic novels, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published in 1818 when she was just 21 years old. Telling the spine-chilling story of Dr Frankenstein and the monster he knocked together in his laboratory, the story is one of the first great horrors, featuring death, suspense and romance.  The novel came about after Mary, her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and the poet Lord Byron had a competition to see who could create the most terrifying horror story. As a result of the contest, Mary created the story of Frankenstein and his monster, who is still one of the most resounding characters in literature and film to-date.

Don’t get confused…: The monster is often referred to as ‘Frankenstein’; Frankenstein was, in fact, the doctor who created the monster. Was Frankenstein crazy? Or evil? Or just lonely…? (We’re having major A-Level English Literature flashbacks…)

Eragon – Christopher Paolini

LA writer Christopher Paolini began writing his first novel, Eragon, when he was 15 years old. Following the story of Eragon and his loyal dragon Saphira as they try to overturn a wicked king, the book was first published in 2002 by his parents, and Christopher toured over 100 schools across the States to promote it. It was then picked up by publisher Alfred A Knopf, who reprinted it in 2003 (when Christopher was 19); the book was on the New York Times’ Childrens’ Books Best Seller list for 121 weeks. The book was also given the Hollywood treatment in 2006; Ed Speelers was selected to play Eragon, and Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich were also in the cast. Wowzer.

Fact: Eragon is the first in Christopher’s Inheritance Cycle series. The series was originally only meant to be three books long, but Christopher eventually decided to bump it up to four as he believed the plot was too complex to cram in to just three books.

Swordbird – Nancy Yi Fan

Nancy moved to the U.S. from Beijing at the age of seven, and is currently a student at Harvard University. She started writing her first novel, Swordbird, when she was 11 years old; at the age of 12, she sold it to HarperCollins. She has also written two other books; 2008’s Sword Quest was a prequel to Swordbird, whilst the third book in the series, Sword Mountain, is due for release later this summer.

What inspired the book: Having always had a love of birds – she has three as pets – a discussion at school about terrorism sparked her to write the book, which tells the story of two warring groups of birds.

This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald was just 24 when he penned This Side Of Paradise, his first novel. Examining the lives of America’s youth in the fallout of the First World War, the book blends a mixture of narrative, verse and letters as it tells the story of Amory Blaine (who is based on Fitzgerald himself). Fitzgerald submitted the manuscript for publication in September 1919 shortly after Zelda Sayres ended their relationship, and its first print-run sold out in just three days.

Fact: Fitzgerald was convinced he was going to become a literary sensation but Zelda remained unconvinced; however, after the dazzling sales performance of The Side Of Paradise, she agreed to marry him.

Sketches By Boz – Charles Dickens

Having already established himself as a news reporter, satirist and general master of the written word, Charles Dickens’ Sketches By Boz was printed in 1836, when he was 24 years old. Containing a medley of fictional and non-fictional pieces, the short accounts are packed with Dickens’ characteristically vivid description and feeling; illustrations were provided by George Cruikshank, who was considered at the time to be the ‘modern Hogarth’.

Just FYI: Boz was Dickens’ pen name, based on a nickname he had given to his younger brother Augustus (who he affectionately referred to as ‘Moses’; ‘Moses’ became ‘Boses’ and from ‘Boses’ Dickens got ‘Boz’. Obviously.)

Enter Frederick K. Bower – Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz’s first book, Enter Frederick K. Bower (originally titled The Sinister Secret of Frederick K Bower), was published in 1979 when he was 24 years old. Since that first publication, Horowitz has gone on to write dozens of other titles – including the Alex Rider series – as well as various TV screenplays. He is currently working on the script for the next Tintin film, which is said to be based on Tintin creator Herge’s Prisoners of the Sun.

Elementary, dear Watson…: In early 2011, the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle announced that Horowitz had been chosen to write a new Sherlock Holmes novel. The House Of Silk was published in November 2011 to rave reviews.

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