Because being an internationally renowned actor or musician isn’t always enough…
Now and again, certain best-selling authors (think JK Rowling or Stephen King) gain so much exposure that they become widely recognised VIPs, rubbing shoulders with film stars on the red carpet and being snapped by the paparazzi. On the other end of the spectrum, so-called ‘Z-list’ celebrities (usually spawned from reality TV shows) will attempt to prolong a dwindling five minutes of fame by putting their name to a ghost written, ‘tell all’ memoir.
Somewhere in-between (and often overlooked) lives a superior species of legitimately successful entertainment industry figures who – amid film shoots and world tours – have inexplicably found the time to sit down and pen a novel or two.
Here are our favourite moonlighting authors with impressively high profile day jobs already under their belts.
John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats)
[Picture: Phoebe West / Flickr / CC]
Released on September 16 this year, Wolf in White Van is being billed as indie folk/rock singer songwriter John Darnielle’s first book. In fact, the Mountain Goats singer also authored a short novel titled Black Sabbath: Master of Reality in 2008 as part of the 33⅓ album series. Wolf in White Van covers similar coming of age themes as Darnielle’s earlier novella, following the story of lonely 17 year old Sean Phillips who seeks solace inside his own imagination. Just two days after its publication, the novel was nominated for a National Book Award for Fiction.
Bad Seeds frontman Nick Cave has published two dark novels over the course of his career, a mere two decades apart. The Death of Bunny Munro (2009) – about the escapades of a sex obsessed travelling salesman – is the better known of the two, but the earlier And the Ass Saw the Angel (1989) was well received, winning Time Out magazine’s Book of the Year Award in 1990.
Perhaps best known for originally writing the endlessly covered classic ‘Hallelujah’, it was Canadian artist Leonard Cohen’s intention to attain a fruitful career as an author – perhaps unsurprising, given his way with words. His two literary works to date – The Favorite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966) – had little success on their release, however, and Cohen opted to change tack and plump for songwriting instead. Since gaining popularity in the music world, the singer’s early novels have become significantly more popular.
Often compared to unconventional texts by the likes of Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, Bob Dylan’s Tarantula is a confusing and psychedelic ‘prose poetry’ affair which the author has (conveniently) claimed he was bullied into writing by his then manager. Officially published in 1971 (despite being written between 1965-66) critics reportedly tore Dylan’s singular foray into literature to pieces.
Colin Meloy (The Decemberists)
[Picture: starbright31 / Flickr / CC]
Leading a double life akin to Batman, Colin Meloy is the lead singer of Portland, Oregon five-piece The Decemberists by day and a budding children’s novelist by night (or should that be the other way around?). Like John Darnielle, Meloy eased himself in gently with a 2004 novella for the 33⅓ series (Let It Be: The Replacements) before launching a kid’s book series titled The Wildwood Chronicles in 2011. Illustrated by Meloy’s wife Carson Ellis, the fantasy series is inspired by traditional folk tales.
Post-Star Wars, Carrie Fisher wrote and published five semi-autobiographical books, fictionalising and satirising events from her own life. The first of these – Postcards from the Edge (1987) – was a bestseller, and Fisher adapted the story for a 1990 film starring Meryl Streep.
Remember Ryan Howard (AKA – actor BJ Novak) the temp from The Office US? It turns out he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve. As well as being a screenwriter, executive producer and director, Novak is also a successful author. Following in the footsteps of his father William Novak (who ghost-wrote memoirs for celebrities, including Nancy Reagan) BJ’s first book One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories was published in early 2013. His follow up in September this year – aimed at children – was endearingly silly The Book With No Pictures, which revealed a surprisingly soft side to the generally sombre writer.
A true renaissance man, 127 Hours star James Franco seems willing to try his hand at just about any artistic discipline going. Much like BJ Novak, Franco has already accumulated credits as a screenwriter and director over the course of his career, as well as appearing on Broadway, making a documentary and recording music with his band Daddy. His book (a collection of interwoven short stories titled Palo Alto) was published in 2010, but most critics felt the work lacked substance. Franco’s stories later inspired a somewhat more successful film in 2013, directed by Gia Coppola and starring Emma Roberts.
[Picture: wfuv / Flickr / CC]
You may already know that comedian Steve Martin is quite the accomplished (and Grammy Award winning) banjo player, but his stint as an author is not so well publicised. Novellas Shopgirl (2000) and The Pleasure of My Company (2003) and later full length novel An Object of Beauty (2010) all follow young and naive protagonists as they attempt to fumble their way through life.
Fittingly described by critics as ‘Wodehouseian’, The Gun Seller (1996) was written by the man behind the endlessly blundering Bertie Wooster, Hugh Laurie. The comedic novel centres on retired army officer Thomas Lang, who is drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. Laurie was supposedly so determined not to be a ‘sell out’ celebrity writer that he submitted his finished draft of The Gun Seller for publication under a pseudonym before later being persuaded to use his own name.
[Picture: Jesse Costa/WBUR / Flickr / CC]
At the age of 44 – in 2012 – ’80s Brat Pack darling Molly Ringwald published a young adult book called When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories. As someone who will undoubtedly be remembered as her 17 year old self in The Breakfast Club (1985) for the rest of eternity, Ringwald is a forerunner for the authority on all things teenager. Perhaps this is why her take on the uniquely awkward coming-of-age experience in When It Happens to You has received so much praise from readers.
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