There are a number of novelists who wrote or published a novel before they were twenty and eventually became very famous. These authors came from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, but they share some common characteristics.
First, they all had a strong love of reading and writing from a young age. Many of them began writing stories and poems as children, and they often had a natural talent for language.
They were all driven and ambitious. They were not content to simply daydream about writing; they were determined to make their dreams a reality.
They were all willing to take risks. They were not afraid to experiment with different genres and styles, and they were not afraid to put their work out there for public scrutiny.
Most novelists who wrote or published novels before they were twenty went on to achieve great things. Some of them, such as Mary Shelley and Arthur Rimbaud, are considered to be among the most important writers of all time. Others, such as S.E. Hinton and Susan Hill, have become successful authors of popular fiction.
What is perhaps most remarkable about these authors is that they all found their voices at such a young age. They were able to tap into their creativity and imagination, and they were able to produce work that was both original and impactful. Their stories continue to inspire and entertain readers today.
Here are fifteen authors who wrote famous novels whilst teenagers:
Jane Austen (1775 – 1817)
was an English novelist who wrote six major novels, all of which were published before she was 40. Her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, was published in 1811, when she was 36 years old. Her other novels include Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion.
Austen’s novels are known for their sharp wit, keen observations of social manners, and complex female characters. She is considered one of the greatest novelists of all time, and her work has been adapted into numerous films and television shows.
Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, was written when she was just 21 years old. It was published anonymously, but Austen’s identity was soon revealed. The novel was a critical and commercial success, and it helped to establish Austen’s reputation as a talented novelist. But even before that, she wrote Lady Susan, a short epistolary novel, between 1793 and 1795 when she was aged 18–20.
Austen’s subsequent novels were successful, and she quickly became one of the most popular writers in England. She died in 1817, at the age of 41, but her work continues to be read and enjoyed by people all over the world and she is considered by many as the greatest novelist in literary history.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)
Percy Bysshe Shelley was an English poet, playwright, and political activist who is considered one of the most important figures in the Romantic movement and one of the great English poets. He published his first novel, Zastrozzi, in 1810, when he was just 18 years old. The novel is a Gothic romance about a young man who is possessed by the spirit of an evil alchemist.
Shelley’s subsequent career as a novelist was not as successful as his career as a poet. He published two more novels, St. Irvyne (1811) and The Revolt of Islam (1818), but neither of them were well-received. Shelley eventually gave up writing novels and focused on poetry.
Mary Shelley (1797 – 1851)
Mary Shelley was an English novelist who is best known for her novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). He was only 18 years old when she wrote Frankenstein, and it was published anonymously. The novel was an immediate success, and it has since become one of the most famous and influential works of science fiction ever written.
Shelley went on to write several other novels, including The Last Man (1826) and The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck (1830). However, none of her other works achieved the same level of success as Frankenstein.
Shelley’s novels are characterized by their dark and fantastical elements, and they often explore themes of alienation, isolation, and the nature of good and evil. She was a gifted writer, and her work continues to be read and enjoyed by many people today.
Arthur Rimbaud (1854 – 1891)
Arthur Rimbaud was a French poet and novelist who is considered one of the most important figures in the Symbolist movement. He published his only novel, Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell), in 1873, when he was just 19 years old. The novel is a semi-autobiographical account of Rimbaud’s spiritual and artistic journey, and it is considered one of the most influential works of modernist literature.
Rimbaud’s subsequent career as a novelist was brief. He published a few more poems and essays, but he gave up writing altogether in his early twenties. He died of cancer at the age of 37.
Ford Madox Ford (1873 – 1939)
Ford Madox Ford was an English novelist, journalist, and literary critic. He is best known for his novel The Good Soldier (1915), which is considered one of the most important works of modernist fiction.
Ford published his first novel, The Shifting of Fire, when he was just 18 years old. He went on to write over 60 novels, as well as numerous short stories, essays, and biographies.
Ford’s novels are known for their experimental style, their complex characters, and their insights into the human condition. He was a major influence on many other writers, including Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Conrad.
Ford’s early novels, such as The Shifting of Fire and The Fifth Queen (1906), were written in a traditional realist style. However, he began to experiment with more modernist techniques in his later novels, such as The Good Soldier and Parade’s End (1924-1928).
Ford’s novels are still read and studied today, and he is considered one of the most important English novelists of the 20th century.
Miles Franklin (1879 – 1954)
Miles Franklin was an Australian novelist who wrote her first novel, My Brilliant Career, when she was just 16 years old. The novel was published in 1901 and was a critical and commercial success. It tells the story of Sybylla Melvyn, a young woman who dreams of becoming a writer but is constrained by her family’s poverty and her own lack of opportunities.
Franklin went on to write several more novels, including Some Modern Australian Poets (1906), My Career Goes Bung (1946), and Cockatoos (1954). She was also a prolific short story writer, and her work was published in magazines and anthologies around the world. Franklin’s novels offer a unique perspective on Australian life
Daisy Ashford (1881 – 1972)
Daisy Ashford was an English novelist who is best known for her novel The Young Visiters (1919), which she wrote when she was 11 years old. The novel is a satirical comedy about a young girl who visits her wealthy relatives in the country. It was a surprise success when it was published, and it has been translated into many languages. The Young Visiters is a classic of children’s literature Ashford went on to write several other novels, but none of them achieved the same level of success as The Young Visiters. Daisy Ashford was born in London in 1881. She was the daughter of a doctor and a writer. Ashford attended boarding school and then went on to study art. She never married and lived with her mother for most of her life.
Marjorie Bowen (1885 – 1952)
Marjorie Bowen was an English novelist who wrote historical fiction, mysteries, and supernatural thrillers. She published her first novel, The Viper of Milan, when she was 17 years old. The novel was a historical romance set in Renaissance Italy, and it was a critical and commercial success. It is still a well-respected historical romance. Bowen went on to write over 100 novels, many of which were set in the past. She was also a prolific short story writer, and she wrote several plays. Marjorie Bowen was born in London in 1885. She was the daughter of a barrister and a novelist. Bowen attended boarding school and then went on to study art. She married twice, but both of her marriages ended in divorce.
Alec Waugh (1898-1981)
Alec Waugh was an English novelist who published his first novel, The Loom of Youth, in 1917 when he was just 19 years old. The semi-autobiographical novel was a controversial bestseller that dealt with themes of homosexuality and teenage sexuality. It was so controversial that Waugh was expelled from Sherborne School, his alma mater, and his father, the novelist Evelyn Waugh, was also expelled from the school’s alumni association.
Waugh went on to publish over 50 novels, including Island in the Sun (1956), The Sunlit Caribbean (1948), and The Sugar Islands (1949). He also wrote several travelogues and biographies. Waugh’s novels are known for their sharp wit, social commentary, and exploration of taboo subjects.
Georgette Heyer (1902 – 1974)
Georgette Heyer was an English novelist who wrote historical romances. Her first novel, The Black Moth, was published in 1921 when she was just 19 years old. The novel was a critical and commercial success, and Heyer went on to write over 50 more historical romances.
Heyer’s novels are set in the Regency era, and they are known for their witty dialogue and their accurate historical detail. She was a master of the Regency romance, and her novels are still popular today.
Françoise Sagan (1935 – 2004)
Françoise Sagan was a French novelist who became a literary sensation at the age of 19 with the publication of her first novel, Bonjour Tristesse (1954). The novel, a coming-of-age story about a young woman’s summer in the south of France, was a critical and commercial success, and Sagan was immediately hailed as a new literary talent.
Sagan went on to write over 20 novels, many of which were bestsellers. Her other notable works include A Certain Smile (1956), The Young People (1958), and The Heart in Winter (1972). She also wrote several plays, screenplays, and essays.
Sagan’s novels are characterized by their elegant prose, their sharp wit, and their exploration of themes of love, loss, and alienation. She was a controversial figure, and her work was often criticized for its hedonism and its depiction of female sexuality. However, she was also a gifted writer, and her novels continue to be read and enjoyed by many people today.
Susan Hill (1942 -)
Susan Hill published her first novel, The Glass-Sided Birdcage, in 1961 when she was just 19 years old. The novel was a coming-of-age story about a young girl who is sent to live with her aunt and uncle after her parents die. Hill went on to publish several more novels, including the best-selling The Woman in Black (1983), a gothic ghost story. Hill has since written many other novels, including The Mist in the Mirror (1987).
E. Hinton (1948 -)
E. Hinton published her first novel, The Outsiders, in 1967 when she was just 16 years old. The novel is a coming-of-age story about two rival gangs of teenage boys in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Outsiders was a critical and commercial success, and it helped to launch Hinton’s career as a novelist. She went on to publish several more novels, including That Was Then, This Is Now (1971) and Rumble Fish (1975). The Outsiders made her an instant bestseller.
Ben Okri (1959 -)
Ben Okri wrote his first book Flowers and Shadows while he was 19. Hepublished his first novel, The Famished Road, in 1991, however when he was 32 years old. The novel is a coming-of-age story set in Nigeria during the Biafran War. The Famished Road won the Booker Prize in 1991, and it helped to launch Okri’s career as a novelist. He went on to publish several more novels, including Songs of Enchantment (1993) and A Way of Being Free (2019).
M. Homes (1969 -)
M. Homes is an American novelist who wrote her novel, Jack, when she was 19, although it was not published until she was 28.
Another novel. The End of Alice, was published when she was 27 years old. The novel was a critical and commercial success, and it won the PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction. Homes has since published several other novels, including This Book Will Save Your Life (2003), Flesh and Blood (2006), and May We Be Forgiven (2012).
Homes’s novels are known for their dark humour, psychological intensity, and exploration of taboo subjects. She has been praised for her unflinching portrayal of human nature, and her work has been compared to that of Philip Roth, Jonathan Franzen, and Jeffrey Eugenides.
And that’s our list of the 10 best police procedural authors. What’s your take on these – any surprises, or any authors not on this list that you feel should make the top 10?