Caretakers, spies, jockeys and journos – that’s what novelists are made of

'Hi-ho! Hi-ho! It's off to work we go!' Image: Pixabay

‘Hi-ho! Hi-ho! It’s off to work we go!’
Image: Pixabay

Ever fancied slipping into an alternate career?

Something out of the norm. Something different.

You could become a lion tamer – if there is such a thing anymore – or a gold prospector in South Africa. Maybe you’ve a yearning to dig up the tombs of the Pharoahs in the Valley of the Kings or hunt for new species of invertebrates in the sticky depths of the Amazon (The jungle, not the online retailer. No one should ever explore Amazon’s sticky depths.)

I have a few ideas for myself:

*Secret shopper at the world’s most glamorous 6 star hotels (warm locations only, please.)

*Professional ‘IT’ Girl (not entirely sure what and ‘IT’ Girl is – and at my age, I’d probably have to be the world’s first ‘IT’ Woman – but it seems to involve wearing designer clothes, posing for paparazzi and falling out of exclusive London nightclubs in the early hours, off your face but still looking totally gorgeous. I’ll give it a go.)

*Oh, and chocolate taster (Obvs.)

Of course, the sensible answer for my alternative career is author.  Although this might seem a switch for someone who goes home at the end of a working day smelling of eucalyptus leaves and mouldy water, moving from florist and previous ladies undergarment salesperson to writer isn’t that much of a stretch. Compare it to how some well-known literary names earned money before Lady Success came calling …

Ian Fleming, author of the rather successful Bond books was in Naval Intelligence during the Second World War. He was involved in the planning of Operation Goldeneye. Goldeneyes was also the name of his house in Jamaica. Now, where have I heard that word before

Before discovering The Discworld, Terry Pratchett started his career as a journalist on local newspapers (journalism being very popular with budding novelists) but became Press Officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board (a body that controlled the production and supply of electricity) for 7 years.

Dick Frances, author of 40 bestselling thrillers based around racecourses and horse training, was a steeplechase jockey who won over 350 races and rode for the Queen and the Queen Mother.

Charles Dickens was also a journalist as a young man but his first job at the age of 12 was pasting labels on jars in a blacking factory, something he was forced into when his father was imprisoned in the Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison.

J. K. Rowling, worked for Amnesty International, the Chamber of Commerce and in Portugal, teaching English as a foreign language before finding success with her Harry Potter books.

John Steinbeck, was an apprentice painter, fruit picker, caretaker and a construction worker at Madison Square Garden before he found success.

Stephen King was a caretaker in a high school whilst writing in his spare time. According to Writers’ Digest, this period of his life inspired the oh-so memorable opening scenes of Carrie.

But the final word goes to William Faulkner, who worked (by all accounts badly) as Post Master at the University of Mississippi. He displayed his mastery of the written word in his resignation note.

As long as I live under the capitalist system I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp. This, sir, is my resignation.


If you’re a budding author, what interesting past careers would you be able to include in your biog?

17 thoughts on “Caretakers, spies, jockeys and journos – that’s what novelists are made of

  1. Great W4W!
    In past lives I have worked in Arts administration, Local Authority, Rape Crisis Counsellor and Educator, and then I did Diploma and Post Grad in Massage Therapy…
    Now? I am my own boss and a Domestic Goddess, doggie Momma and wannabe writer.
    I think floristry must be a lovely job!
    K x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow! You’ve had some great jobs! A really interesting stuff to include on your author biog :)Are you a freelancer now, then? Takes an awful lot of hustle to be freelance – trying to get my head round the possibilities of it myself.(Freelance writer, that is, not florist)
      And floristry is great – if colder and dirtier than most people would imagine. You have hands like a gardener’s all the time – ingrained with filth! And it’s very badly paid. But then, so many creative things are. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Paper boy (evenings and Sundays).
    Petrol pump attendant.
    Christmas stint in PO sorting office.
    Shifting full crates in a milk bottling plant.
    Library assistant.
    Clerical assistant in a council accounts section.
    Classroom teacher.
    Music festival adjudicator.
    Piano teacher.
    Piano accompanist.

    And that’s just the paid jobs. (And I just can’t compete with the Better Half who would need two sides of A4 for her lifetime of paid work.)

    What was the question?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now, you see, that’s a full and interesting CV! I confess to being slightly envious of the variety and how fascinating some of your jobs have been. Where did you play the piano? I’m imagining a honky tonk, filled with smoke and Bourbon fumes! My CV is almost all retail – pretty boring. I blame my careers advisor at school. When selecting a venue for my work experience, he refused to let me try for the local museum and the local library (as you may gather from my blog, books and history being two of my obsessions) because he said I’d be bored. I ended up working in a clothes factory for a fortnight – though, granted I was cutting out by the end of my stint.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I almost ended up doing a postgrad library diploma in Leeds were it not for the vagaries of fate: Newton Park College (now part of Bath Spa Uni) was the first to offer me a place for a PGCE and, as a Bristol husband and father

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Are you glad things turned out that way? Or do you still wonder what the librarian you would have been like?
        Interesting, the ways life takes us. If it weren’t for the enormous economic global crash, I had planned to use my degree to teach in FE. Of course, the moment I graduated, the colleges began to lose funding and I found it hard to get a placement … So I stuck with floristry and concentrated on my writing. Only time will tell if that’s going to pan out … 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I try not to have regrets or to wonder how life might have turned out — I can’t imagine how us, a small family, moving to Yorkshire would have managed. All I know is that I wouldn’t have had the marriage, the extended family and the life experiences if we’d moved away from Bristol at that stage in our lives. And I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am now.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Quite right. I try not to regret being such a late starter in everything, but I can’t regret the fact circumstances have brought me here. I’m very lucky.

        Like

      5. Not really. Everyone always says ‘what a wonderful job’ which makes me feel slightly guilty for voicing my dissatisfaction with it. It’s fine, I work with some really nice people in a lovely shop. But I wish I’d realised how much I love academic subjects (art and history particularly) earlier in life, and stuck with the writing. The interests were there early on, I just always expected to work in a shop – that was what people I knew did.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Oh, fantastic! Being a history grad, I love period music. It reconnects you to the period. I remember my mum playing an LP of Thomas Tallis compositions – magical. And folk is so very fashionable now – are you playing at the moment?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Haven’t been involved really since the late 70s. Coincidentally though while painting the bathroom I’m listening to the fabulous Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain’s a cappella folk rendition of Pinball Wizard — now that’s proper music fusion! On the other extreme I sang in what’s claimed as the first ever performance of Spem in Alium in West Wales, in St Davids Cathedral.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.