(Yui Mok/PA)
(Yui Mok/PA)

Dolly Parton and 5 brilliant authors who wrote their first book later in life

These literary legends prove it’s never too late to pick up a pen.

Prudence Wade
Thursday 12 August 2021 09:40

Adding another string to her bow, Dolly Parton is set to publish her first novel.

The 75-year-old singer will publish Run, Rose, Run in March 2022, co-written with James Patterson Parton will release a new album simultaneously, and lyrics from the songs will feature in the book.

Run, Rose, Run will be about a young woman who moves to Nashville to become a musician. A statement said of the plot: “The source of her heart-wrenching songs is a brutal secret she has done everything to hide.”

We’re delighted for Parton and think it goes to show it’s never too late to start penning that novel.

For although endless ’30 under 30′ lists, celebrating young people scrambling to achieve as much as they can as quickly as possible, can make it seem like you’ve missed your chance for success once you’ve passed 30, 40, 50 or beyond, that is fortunately far from the case.

Some of the world’s greatest writers came to their craft later in life and went on to have a huge impact on the literary world, proving you can be successful at any age.

If you need a bit of inspiration –  to get writing or achieve whatever you hope to accomplish in life – Parton isn’t the only author making her mark long after celebrating her 30th birthday…

1. Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison in 1998 (Michael Crabtree/PA)

Toni Morrison has a strong background in literature – she studied English at university and later worked in publishing. However, she didn’t publish her own first book, The Bluest Eye, until she was 39 years old.

Morrison, born in Ohio in the US, found global fame in 1987 – when she was 56 – with her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Beloved. In 2012, she reflected on taking up writing close to middle age, telling Interview Magazine: “Writing was the real freedom, because nobody told me what to do there. That was my world and my imagination.”

2. Annie Proulx


With five novels, various short story collections and works of non-fiction under her belt, you’d be forgiven for thinking US author Annie Proulx has been in the game for a long time. But Proulx, now 85, didn’t publish her first full novel, Postcards, until 1992 – when she was 57.

Proulx went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for The Shipping News, and gained even more fans when her short story, Brokeback Mountain, was adapted for the screen in 2005.

3. George Eliot

Mary Ann Evans wrote her first novel, Adam Bede, when she was 40 years old. She took on the pen name George Eliot to avoid speculation about her scandalous private life – in 1854 she famously eloped to Germany with a married man – and because she believed she’d be taken more seriously if readers thought she was a male writer.

Her now-classic novels include Middlemarch, The Mill On The Floss and Daniel Deronda, making Eliot one of the 19th century’s most prominent British writers.

4. Mark Twain


Sometimes you need to go out and experience the world before you can create great art, and that’s exactly what Samuel Clemens did. Now known by his pen name, Mark Twain he worked as a typesetter, riverboat pilot and journalist before settling into writing fiction. Twain published his first full solo novel, The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, in 1876, when he was 41 years old.

Approaching middle age didn’t stop Twain from becoming one of America’s literary greats – after all, he’s often attributed with the quote: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

5. Bram Stoker


Bram Stoker author of the classic Gothic novel Dracula, also had an unusual route into literature. After attending university in Dublin, he worked in the civil service, wrote play reviews, was the assistant to the Victorian stage actor Henry Irving and manager of the Lyceum Theatre.

His first novel, The Snake’s Pass, came in 1890 when he was 43, while his definitive work, Dracula, was published when he was 50.

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