When I had the first novel in my Charlie Fox crime thriller series accepted, I had a full-time job. No surprises there – very few authors go straight from cradle to typewriter without some other kind of honest endeavour in between.
What was slightly more unusual was that I was already a writer, and had been for around twelve years. Being a non-fiction magazine writer was very useful training for what was to come. It taught me to write to topic, to length, to a deadline, and not to be too precious about my work, which was likely to be hacked to death by the subs in order to squeeze in a slightly larger picture.
However, I was also a photographer in order to illustrate both my own articles and those of other people, so if that slightly larger picture was one of my own, I didn’t feel I could grumble too much.
Once I started work on book two, then three and four to feature Charlie Fox, I found the brain-drain of writing both as a day-job and a night-job became a bit much. I sidled out of the article writing but increased the photography side. Nothing to stop me working on my laptop on the way to and from photo shoots – and no, I wasn’t driving at the time.
I’m not the only Murder Is Everywhere author to have a similar day-job. Sujata Massey, having obtained a B.A. in the Writing Seminars from the Johns Hopkins University, became a features reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun newspaper before she became a full-time novelist.
The founder of Murder Is Everywhere, the late Leighton Gage, did a slightly different kind of writing for his day-job. Gage was an international creative director for a major worldwide advertising agency, and won over 120 awards for advertising excellence. Good copywriting is, indeed, an art.
The legal profession has two exponents here, in both Jeffrey Siger – a former Wall Street lawyer – and Susan Spann, who still practices as an intellectual copyright lawyer. This gives me a tenuous connection with two other famous authors and their day-jobs. T.S. Eliot was a banker, although for Lloyd’s in London rather than on Wall Street. And at one point Franz Kafka was a legal clerk.
Caro Ramsay has a successful osteopathy practice as well as writing her novels, and I can’t get the image out of my mind of her with a patient’s buttock in one hand and a pen in the other …
Other authors with a medical connection including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a surgeon, while Agatha Christie worked as an apothecary’s assistant, gaining a very useful working knowledge of poisons while she was about it.
The Michael Stanleys, as I tend to think of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip collectively, both come from academic backgrounds. Michael from a position at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg where he specialised in applications of mathematics in a variety of areas including image analysis and ecological modelling. And Stan took a PhD in Educational Psychology and up to retirement was Director of Learning Strategies at Capella University. He’s also a keen pilot (until very recently, that is) and has lectured on aviation safety.
Another author involved in the educational field includes – cue tenuous link here – Stephen King, who was a High School janitor, who apparently claimed that inspiration for ‘Carrie’ came from the girls’ locker room.
Before Cara Black turned to writing full-time, she tried her hand at a number of jobs including as a barista in the Basel train station café in Switzerland. She is in good company, as Margaret Atwood worked behind the counter in a coffee shop before her ownwriting career took off.
Jørn Lier Horst was a former Senior Investigating Officer in the Norwegian Police, a profession he shares with George Orwell, who was an officer in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. Douglas Adams worked as a bodyguard to a Qatari family.
More unusual day-jobs of famous authors can be found at The Expert Editor blog. (Oh, and if you're wondering what Annamaria Alfieri did before she became a writer, so am I ...
This week’s Word of the Week is callipygian, meaning to have well-shaped buttocks.