Many people think of writing as a solitary activity. Presumably, most authors wake up in the mid-afternoon for coffee and whisky, sit at an antique typewriter for several hours, and then return to bed around one in the morning. However, there are, in fact, a few authors over the course of history who are on record as having at least one friend. So here are some famous authors who were good friends in real life.
It makes sense for writers to be friends with other writers. When you're a writer, you absolutely must have someone you can call up at three in the afternoon when everyone responsible in your life is at work. You need another a writer friend to bounce ideas of off. You need someone who understands writer's block, and who will tell you to stop moping around eating cereal straight out of the box. And every book enthusiast knows that books are meant to be shared (although any true friend knows NEVER to speak to you while you're reading).
Some of these writers found friendship through shared subject matter. Others found friendship through artistic rivalry. At least one pair just happened to grow up together. But all of them prove that a literary friendship is a lasting friendship:
1. J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis
These two "fathers of fantasy" had one of the most famous author friendships of all time. They first met at Oxford, and it wasn't quite love at first sight. Lewis wrote his first impression of Tolkien in his diary at the time, saying, "no harm in him: only needs a smack or so." But the two soon bonded over mythology, language, and storytelling, and it wasn't long before they were critiquing each other's work. Tolkien thought Lewis was a little heavy-handed with his religious allegories, and Lewis thought Tolkien took way too long to write his fantasy epics, but they remained fast friends despite their differences.
2. James Baldwin and Toni Morrison
James Baldwin and Toni Morrison met when Morrison was working as an editor at Random House. She tried to sign Baldwin to a book deal, which didn't pan out—but it did start a lifelong friendship. They respected each other's writing immensely, and just plain enjoyed each other's company. As Baldwin told his biographer, "I dig Toni, and I trust her." If you want to hear what Toni Morrison thought of her dear friend, arm yourself with some tissues and go read her beautifully written tribute to him in the New York Times.
3. Truman Capote and Harper Lee
Truman Capote is famous for being an author who loved the limelight. Harper Lee is famous for being a recluse. Their friendship seems unlikely, except that they were next door neighbors growing up in Alabama. They met at age five, and became lifelong friends and confidants. They wrote together as children, protected each other from bullies, and even took a road trip together as adults. And Dill from To Kill a Mockingbird is apparently based on a young Truman Capote (that's what Capote said, anyway).
4. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald were a pair of frenemies for the ages. They moved in the same social circles in Paris in the '20s, where they became close friends. Fitzgerald helped Hemingway out by editing parts of The Sun Also Rises, and Hemingway returned the favor by writing about how Fitzgerald was a sniveling coward and generally the worst in his memoir, A Moveable Feast. Hemingway also hated Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda, and frequently accused Fitzgerald of being a less authentic writer than he was. The moral of the story is never be friends with Ernest Hemingway.
5. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Anyone who's ever read Good Omens will be utterly unsurprised to find out that Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett were friends in real life. Many Good Omens fans have accused them of being the inspiration for the characters of Crowley and Aziraphale (with Gaiman as the laid back demon and Pratchett as the bookish angel, of course). They first met in a Chinese restaurant, when young journalist Neil Gaiman was sent to interview fantasy author Terry Pratchett, and the rest is history. Neil Gaiman has written a wonderfully honest essay about storytelling and rage, in a tribute to their friendship.
6. Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton
Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath weren't just two poets writing on similar themes: they took the same poetry classes. Both women studied at Boston University, where they would discuss writing and meet for martinis after their seminar with Robert Lowell. Both struggled with mental illness and both pushed back against the expectations for women at the time. They're often considered rival poets, but they clearly also found a kindred spirit in one another.
7. Lord Byron and Mary Shelley
She was the mother of Science Fiction. He was a leading figure of the Romantic movement (and one of Britain's most dramatic poets of all time). Poet Percy Shelley and his wife, Mary Shelley, became good friends with Lord Byron one summer when all three were vacationing in Geneva, Switzerland. One night, while sitting around the fire, Byron suggested that each of them should write a ghost story. Mary couldn't think of anything to write about, and stressed out over it for a couple of days as Byron kept pestering her to come up with something spooky. Finally, she presented a story about a re-animated corpse. She scared herself so badly that she had vivid nightmares, but her ghost story eventually evolved into the novel Frankenstein.
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