Tag Archives: F. Scott Fitzgerald

How to tell if you’re a Famous Writer….

First of all, forget becoming a bestseller: who cares about your sales and vast wealth? Your novel was turned into an inferior film by Hollywood, and more people watched it than have ever read your books. The publicity surrounding the movie caused a brief blip in your sales figures, as a few discerning readers sought out your back catalogue, but it didn’t last.

You’re not a household name and those that are often write inferior fiction that briefly satisfies some squalid urge. How many authors could the average dunce-in-the-street name anyway? And, most of those would be dead—classical authors they were made to read at school—putting them off reading for life.

No, what you need to happen to be really famous is to have journalists write about your sex life love life...they’ll gussy it up by pretending it’s about how your romances affected your writing, but what they really want to do is puncture your reputation as an intellectual to show you up as a lascivious beast or a repressed misanthrope or even kinky beyond imagination!

Most of these saucy tales won’t come out until you’ve been dead for a while—after all, there are libel laws—and some editors might have enough conscience left to avoid destroying a marriage or literary reputation.

Still, years later (or even as soon as you’re dead), your horizontal jogging exploits will be revealed. Books such as The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People will include a few writers’ sexual shenanigans.


Readers will be amazed to learn that F. Scott Fitzgerald had a fetish for feet and that he agonised about the size of his penis, once whipping it out in a restroom to ask Ernest Hemingway what he thought. H.G. Wells was a satyr, rarely without a woman and many were young enough to be his daughter; he was shagging into his last year, dying at 80. James Boswell, famed as the chronicler of Dr Johnson, was always at it, often with prostitutes where he probably caught the gonorrhoea which killed him at 54. Before losing his virginity he used trees as sexual partners!

If thinking about this future exposure bothers you, remain chaste and preferably lead a reclusive lifestyle. That way, you could end up as a symbol for your country when they use your image on banknotes. Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare have all adorned British banknotes. Robert Louis Stevenson appeared on a Scottish £1 note, while James Joyce was on an Irish tenner. Denmark chose Hans Christian Anderson for its 10 Kroner note.

I wonder how long it will be before J.K. Rowling appears on a British banknote…perhaps in the next century. As for her sex life, for the moment, we can only ponder who slytherined into her gryffindor and expelliarmussed! 


The original muses were nine minor goddesses in Greek mythology who provided inspiration for artists. Calliope might be the most useful for writers.

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In an old post Seeking Divine Inspiration, I asked if writers prayed to their muse or god?

In real life, it’s sometimes true love and the one that got away, which inspires great writing. John Keats immortalised Fanny Brawne, in love letters and sonnets. Shakespeare often referred to a ‘Dark Lady’ and a ‘Fair Youth’ in 154 love sonnets, who are thought to be a noted prostitute of the time, and a gay lover, meaning the bard was bisexual.

Scott Fitzgerald used his wife Zelda as the basis for several characters, also nicking parts of her diary to use in his novels! W. B. Yeats’ poetry is full of unrequited love for Maud Gonne. The main characters of Pride and Prejudice are based on Jane Austen’s affair with Tom Lefroy, a lawyer who went on to become a politician and Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.

More recently, Bob Dylan was inspired by his wife Sara Lowndes, penning one of his best albums Blood On The Tracks when they broke up.


Leonard Cohen died in 2016, but aware of his own frail health, wrote a moving farewell to his dying muse Marianne Ihlen—who inspired the songs So Long, Marianne and Bird On A Wire.

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There’s a strange form of sexism when it comes to muses, for male writers are said to be inspired by the women they loved as if something in their psyche is reflected by the liaison, whereas few female writers are identified as having their work lifted up by the men they gave their hearts to.

I’ve dedicated several love poems to old girlfriends, who inspired happy memories. A recurring character in my Cornish Detective novels is an American photographer, called Mish Stewart, who is based on my camera-toting friend of the same name—with her permission.

While in the early stages of writing the last book in the series, which is set in the art colony of Saint Ives, Lizzy, a friend in Birkenhead unexpectedly sent me some art books. One was about an Austrian-New Zealand painter called Hundertwasser, who was new to me, but whose colourful paintings were ideal for my plot. I dedicated the story to my friend Lizzy.

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Who has been your muse?

Have you dedicated any stories to loved ones?

Do you have any famous writers’ portraits on your wall, to act as inspiration?

Exclamation Marks

This article from the Guardian, written by Elena Ferrante, about the use of exclamation marks in writing, had me scurrying to my last novel to check how many I’d used in 84,000 words.

The answer is just one, and that was made by a dead forger who added an exclamation mark as an act of protest to her own signature in the corner of a spoiled painting she’d copied, which was found in her flat.

I’ve long known that exclamation marks are frowned upon by writing gurus. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said:

Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” 

Usually, it’s possible to indicate shock, fear and anger by word choice.

I admit that I commonly use exclamation marks in emails to friends, which are more colloquially phrased…

Do you overindulge in exclamation marks?