Never too late to be what you might have been

The recent death aged 93 of writer Andrea Camilleri, Italian author of the Inspector Montalbano novels, prompted me to consider writers that start (not simply finish but start) writing in older age. Aside from one early (at least commercially) unsuccessful publication, Camilleri did not start writing until he was almost 70, yet went on to produce over 100 novels, histories, and biographies (I should have included him in my blog referring to particularly prolific writers – Double Juggle).

Other well-known writers that started ‘late’ (shall we call that over forty-five – not that I am suggesting that’s old?) include those below (in chronological order of first publication).

  • We can go write back to the early novel here, for Daniel Defoe did not publish his debut novel Robinson Crusoe (1719) until he was 59.
  • Then there’s author of horsey classic Black Beauty (1877) Anna Sewell, who began writing at age 51.
  • Bram Stoker, author of Dracula (1897), who wrote his famous book aged 50 after a career in the civil service, writing reviews for free as a side interest.
  • Writer of the Little House on the Prairie (1932) books Laura Ingalls Wilder who did not publish the first book in her series until she was 64.
  • Raymond Chandler, who turned his hand to short story writing after losing his job in the oil industry aged forty-four, published classic depression-era detective-noir The Big Sleep (1939) at the age of 51.
  • Watership Down (1972) Richard Adams, another civil servant and ‘hobbyist’ writer, who published his best-known work aged 54.
  • Booker Prize winner Penelope Fitzgerald started out as a biographer aged 60, publishing a life of Edward Burne-Jones in 1975, then later her first novel The Golden Child in 1977.

    Mary Wesley was an older author, but unafraid to be raunchy
  • Mary Wesley, who had her first children’s book Speaking Terms published in 1969 when she was 57, though is better known for her adult novels, starting with Jumping the Queue published in 1983 when she was 70 years old (she produced ten bestsellers in the last twenty years of her life).
  • Annie Proulx, a Pulitzer Prize winner who published her first novel, Postcards (1992) at 57 – with her famous work The Shipping News published a year later.
  • Angela’s Ashes (1996) writer, and another Pulitzer Prize winner, Frank McCourt, who was 66 when the first in his series of memoirs was published.

There are, of course, loads of other examples. Particularly if we were to lower the bar to, say, forty.

Arguably, ‘older’ writers have a greater length and often depth of experience behind them. They have already ‘been someone’ in their personal and / or professional lives

George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans), who herself published her first novel, Adam Bede (1859), at the age of 40, is quoted as having said “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” Meaning, I suppose, that no, it never is too late to fulfil your potential in any area you choose (okay, that’s probably in areas that are mental rather than physical).


Main picture: Dominika Roseclay

17 thoughts on “Never too late to be what you might have been

  1. I love this. Beautiful. I’ve always bragged that my Grandma went to college in her 50’s and then had a career as a teacher, and lived to 101. Inspirations, all of these stories. Hope you don’t mind if I include this in my Saturday Share post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You must be very proud of your grandma as a fantastic role model, for women and older people in general. A share would be great, thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow you give me hope – writing at 70 – that is so awesome – your posts are always so charming – why don’t you post often 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These examples inspire hope in me too. Wish I could say writing – and posting – more often need more time, but you are clearly a busy person yet also very productive beyond the workplace, so I have little excuse!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You write beautiful and you write with perfection. I on the other side is impromptu 🌸😊


    2. Yes I agree, charming and a beautiful read whatever the lady chooses to write about 🙂 .

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Too kind, I rush too much! Prize homophone error in the above text ‘write’ for ‘right’ – I am leaving it there as a classic!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I started blogging at 69. Does that count?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great Monday motivation. It’s never too late!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well I only recognized Bram Stoker above, but in this writing community, I know quite a few authors who decided to write after they retired or after all the kids left to college, so, over the 45 bar you set. Plus, I noticed there are a few fellow authors with my same publishing house over 60.


    1. I think some of them have probably fallen out of fashion. And it’s interesting how people now, as then, often have to wait until retirement (or losing jobs / financial need) before having time to write. Still, there seems to be a positive trend for writers of all ages.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah, so Andrea Camileri has died. Thank you for that bit of (sad) news. I have enjoyed reading his books, and will now re-read them with poignancy. Impressed that he only started at 70, though! As an older beginner writer, I have been actively seeking info on those who discover their writer-selves in their post-youth years, as well. This has re-inspired me 🙂


    1. It gives me hope too. A number of these ‘older’ writers seemed to find time in retirement – which is also hitting most of us later, along with more demanding work lives. So I wonder if the trend is going to go up.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close