One of the biggest myths of writing is that you have to start young in order to be successful. Yet not all authors beginning penning masterpieces in their teens. In fact, some of the most successful authors have benefited from being ‘late bloomers’. Here are six famous authors that begun late but ultimately left their mark on the literary world.

 Frank McCourt

‘Everyone has a story to tell. All you have to do is write it. But it's not that easy.’

Author Frank McCourt

It was McCourt’s third wife Ellen, who persuaded him to put pen to paper. As she said,

‘He had a huge imagination and had all kinds of ideas for things he wanted to do. I suggested that out of all the many projects he had percolating in his head, he should pick one and just focus on it.’

His debut novel, the memoir Angela's Ashes, was published when he was 66 years old. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Toni Morrison

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’

Author Toni Morrison published her first book at the age of 40

A newly single working mother with two young sons, Toni Morrison used to get up before dawn to write what would become her first novel, The Bluest Eye. She was 40 years old when it was published.

Lee Child

‘Don't get it right - get it WRITTEN!’ 

Author Lee Child

Faced with the loss of his job and the need to support his family Lee Child wrote his first book under ‘very real feelings of desperation’. He had always been a reader of crime fiction yet he was never entirely satisfied with the books of other authors, finding that ‘the hero would always make one plot-driven mistake, which was totally out of character, and it would spoil the book for me’. He was 43 years of age when his debut novel, Killing Floor, was published.

Helen DeWitt

If you don’t like a language, you can go write your own’.

Author Helen DeWitt

Helen DeWitt was 41 when her debut novel, The Last Samurai, was published. She followed a rocky path to publication, littered with hundreds of half-begun books and abandoned scripts. Finally, sick of inertia she quit her job, cut out all distractions and spent a month focusing solely on her first book.

J. R. R. Tolkien

Usually I compose only with great difficulty and endless rewriting.’

J. R. R. Tolkien quote

 The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien’s debut novel was published when he was 45 years old. Shortly afterward he commenced writing The Lord of the Rings, a trilogy that took him 12 years to finish. It was not published until he was 63 years old.

Anna Sewell

I am never afraid of what I know.’

Reading book to child

 Anna Sewell began her only published novel, the classic Black Beauty, at the age of 51. She was in ill health at the time and dictated much of the text to her mother to be transcribed. At the age of 57, just 5 months prior to her death, the novel was published.