7 Authors Who Overcame Adversity

Earlier this week during a break from working on my third novel I took to thinking about famous authors who overcame adversity.  Why, I don’t know why.  Anyway, I thought it was a topic that would make a worthy addition to my popular famous author series of blog posts. Here are 7 authors who overcame varying degrees of adversity:

Maxim Gorky

Maxim Gorky

(March 28th 1868 – June 18th 1936)

Iconic Russian author Maxim Gorky was brought up in relative poverty by his grandmother after being orphaned at a young age. During this period he suffered abuse from his grandfather. At the age of 12 he ran away from home and travelled across the Russian Empire for 5 years, living as a tramp for much of this time. Gorky went on to become one of Russia’s most popular authors ever and the founder of the Socialist realism literary method.

Click here to read my review of My Childhood

Victor Frankl

Victor Frankl

(March 26th 1905 – September 2nd 1997)

Austrian Jew Victor Frankl was a psychiatrist, neurologist and writer, who was imprisoned in several concentration camps during the WWII, including Auschwitz. Frankl’s wife, mother and brother died in the camps. The only immediate member of his family to survive the War was his sister Stella. Frankl went on to write a number of books, his most famous, Man’s Search for Meaning, had at the time of his death in 1997 sold 10 million copies and been translated into 24 languages.

Paulo Coelho


(Born: August 24th 1947)

Brazilian songwriter turned novelist Paulo Coelho was committed to a mental institution at the age of 17 by his parents, who were concerned about his introverted, non-conformist behavior. Coelho, who was fed tranquilizers and given electroshock treatments escaped several times before he was finally released at the age of 20. Today Coelho is the best-selling Portuguese language author of all time. His seminal work, The Alchemist, has been translated into 80 languages.

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling

(Born: July 31st 1965)

Listed by Forbes in 2004 as being the first person to become a U.S. dollar billionaire from writing books, the author of the Harry Potter series is one of the best selling authors of all time. Prior to her success Rowling went through a seven-year period that entailed divorcing her first husband, the death of her mother, existing on benefits as a single mother in Edinburgh, suffering from depression, and even considering suicide.

Janet Frame


(August 28th 1924 – January 29th 2004)

Novelist, poet, short story writer and essayist Janet Frame is widely considered to be one of New Zealand’s best ever authors. Frame’s traumatic childhood saw 2 of her sisters drowned. In 1945 she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalised. The author was saved from a lobotomy, when days prior to the procedure, she unexpectedly won a national literary contest. In 1961 her novel Faces in the Water was published. It went on to become a best seller in her native country.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


(March 6th 1806 – June 29th 1861)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one of England’s most famous poets during the Victorian era. In addition to producing poetry at a prolific rate, she campaigned for the abolition of slavery and child labour reform. Browning suffered from extremely poor health from an early age. After suffering spinal and head pain aged 15 she was prescribed laudanum (tincture of opium). Browning became a lifelong opium addict, which no doubt contributed to her ongoing health problems.

Jean-Dominique Bauby 


(April 23rd 1952 –March 9th 1997)

Jean-Dominique Bauby was a well-known French journalist and editor of the French fashion magazine Elle, who suffered a massive stroke at the age of 43, which left him speechless and paralysed. Bauby went on to write his memoir The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by blinking every time a person reciting the alphabet reached the required letter. Through this painstaking method Bauby successfully created and edited his book one letter at a time.


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