It goes without saying that people are multifaceted. However in these cases, multifaceted feels like an understatement. Not only did these authors begin their careers in completely different fields, but they then moved on to excel as writers. Here are five best-selling, female authors who weren’t always writers.
1. Deborah Harkness
Best-selling author of the All Souls trilogy, Harkness worked as a history professor at the University of Southern California where she taught European history and the history of science. Although she had previously published two non-fiction works, she didn’t take the plunge into historical fiction until 2011 when her first book in the All Souls trilogy, A Discovery of Witches, was published. Her background gave the trilogy the historical context it needed as the series begins when Diana, a historian, calls up a manuscript at the Oxford Library that then opens the flood gates for the many magical creatures that enter her life. As the trilogy progresses, she eventually has to travel through time, giving Harkness the opportunity to really show her knowledge and providing a life-like feel to Diana’s journey.
Keeping the theme with professors turned best-selling authors, Diana Gabaldon is a chief standout. She was a research professor at Arizona State University and is an expert in scientific computation. She also wrote various technical articles as well as Disney comics. Seemingly on a whim, she decided to try her hand at writing a novel, and since her background was in research, she felt that historical fiction was the best option for her. And thus, Outlander was born, although she had no intention of showing it to anyone, she published a small excerpt of it online and was eventually put in touch with a literary agent. With the growing success of her books, Gabaldon decided to quit her job as a professor in order to work as a full-time author.
3. Delia Owens
As a Zoologist who spent her time living and working in Africa, Owens studied wildlife behavioral ecology. Her interest was primarily in studying the predominately female groups of hyenas, lions, and elephants. This then led to the idea of writing a story about a girl who was isolated from society and thus not a part of any social groups. This idea led to her novel, Where the Crawdads Sing, which has topped best-seller lists. It is easy to see the appreciation for nature and Owen’s expertise in painting a picture of complex ecosystems that help shape Kya’s world.
4. Maya Angelou
At the age of 16, Angelou became the first Black female cable car conductor in San Francisco. Once she was married, her interest shifted to dance where she eventually moved to New York City to study African dance. She then began dancing professionally at nightclubs where she also sang. Through her popularity, she was able to tour Europe and perform in various countries. This then led to her recording an album and performing in an off-broadway review. With novelist John Oliver Killens’s encouragement, Angelou began to concentrate on her writing and would eventually write I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. From there, her career snowballed and lead to publications, editorial jobs, screenwriting, all while singing and acting.
5. Gail Honeyman
As a French language and literature major from both Oxford and Glasglow University, Honeyman decided that a career in the academic world wasn’t for her. She worked various jobs since then as a civil servant and then as an administrator at Glasglow University. While working full-time, she decided to take a writing course at Faber Academy where she then began writing Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. The novel won the Costa Debut Novel Award in 2017, several prizes at the British Book Awards in 2018, and was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize in 2014.