Roald Dahl

Secret Life of Children’s Authors – Part 1

Subtitled: A list of weird and wonderful (and downright bizarre) facts about children’s writers.

Sometimes a writer’s life is just as interesting as the stories he or she writes. That’s certainly the case with some of this lot.

This list is only the beginning. There’s more to come. Part 2 will follow next week. As I delved into their bios more and more juicy tidbits came pouring out. It would appear children’s authors are an intriguing bunch.

  1. Shel Silverstein was a Korean War veteran and wrote the song A Boy Named Sue, made famous by Johnny Cash. He was a cartoonist and writer for Playboy when the magazine first started and sometimes lived at the Playboy Mansion.
  2. Roger Hargreaves wrote the first Mr. Men book, Mr. Tickle, when his son asked him what a tickle looked like.
  3. While a student at Oxford University John Ronald Reuel (J.R.R.) Tolkien stole a city bus as a prank and went for a joyride with his friends. It was the review of a ten-year-old boy named Rayner Unwin that led to The Hobbit getting published. He was paid a shilling. His father, Sir Stanley Unwin, was the director of publishing house George Allen & Unwin.
  4. Joanne (J.K.) Rowling must be a fan of Thomas Hardy. In one sentence of The Mayor of Casterbridge there are two words that you might find familiar. And, wow, what a sentence. Take a deep breath.

    “The sharp reprimand was not lost upon her, and in time it
    came to pass that for ‘fay’ she said ‘succeed’; that she no
    longer spoke of ‘dumbledores‘ but of ‘humble bees’; no
    longer said of young men and women that they ‘walked
    together,’ but that they were ‘engaged’; that she grew to
    talk of ‘greggles’ as ‘wild hyacinths’; that when she had
    not slept she did not quaintly tell the servants next
    morning that she had been ‘hag-rid,‘ but that she had
    ‘suffered from indigestion.'”

  5. One half of the creators of Superman, Joe Shuster, was Canadian. He was born in Toronto, Ontario but moved to Cleveland, Ohio with his family when he was about ten. Just think about that for a minute; Superman, the all-American hero, is half Canadian.
  6. Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis was born a Christian but became an atheist at about the age of 13. He converted back to Christianity in 1931 at 33. He died the same day President John F Kennedy was assassinated.
  7. Wilson Rawls was embarrassed to tell his fiancée about his failed dreams of becoming a writer so he burned all his manuscripts before he got married. He was later encouraged by his wife to rewrite one of his stories, Where the Red Fern Grows.
  8. Roald Dahl disliked beards and wrote his books in a shed in his back garden. He was a World War II flying ace and an undercover agent for the British Embassy in Washington – a real-life James Bond. He also boasted some astonishing sexual conquests in the line of duty: Millicent Rogers, the heiress to a Standard Oil fortune, and Clare Boothe Luce, a Right-wing congresswoman and the wife of Henry Luce, the publisher of Time magazine.

    “Boothe Luce proved so frisky, Dahl later claimed to have begged his superiors to take him off the assignment, only to be told to get back into the bedroom.”

    “Roald Dahl’s seductive work as a British spy”, The Telegraph, August 31, 2008, by Chris Irvine