Of families and writing talent

Father and daughter

Some father & daughter time. Image courtesy of kakisky, Morguefile.

Isn’t it odd how creativity bounces around within a family?

That’s especially true when it comes to writing. I’ve thought a lot about families lately, since it’s the Christmas season and everyone’s coming together to celebrate.

I often wonder if the son or daughter of a famous author felt compelled or pressured into writing due to the fame of their parent, or if the writing ability was just inherent in their nature all along. Throughout literary history, there have been several cases of parent/child writing relationships:

1) Alexandre Dumas (perè) and Alexandre Dumas (fils) — Alexandre Dumas the father wrote some of my all-time favorite books such as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. Both are compelling stories with interesting main characters, but I like Edmund Dantés in the Count better. The poor guy is so naive in the beginning, grows wiser with the help of brilliant priest and friend Abbé Faria and returns to exact revenge upon the people that wronged him. Dumas created such an unforgettable character; even though Dantés is determined to get revenge, you understand why and he does show his decent side in rewarding the people that deserve it.

Alexandre Dumas the son inherited some of his dad’s talent, but found success in writing plays rather than novels. Did his dad ever attend any of the plays? It’s interesting to imagine a scene where son and dad are talking together backstage after the show.

2) Charles Dickens and Charles Dickens, Jr. — What would it have been like to have Charles Dickens for your father? By some accounts, Charley Jr. didn’t always have it easy. As the eldest child in the family, he saw his father and mother split apart since his father was in love with someone else but refused to get a divorce. Charley Jr. maintained a relationship with his dad since he acted as editor on his dad’s magazine. Charley Jr. found his own fame in another sphere — writing dictionaries.

3) Rosamunde Pilcher and Robin Pilcher — Rosamunde Pilcher has given us many literary treats such as The Shell Seekers, September, Coming Home and Winter Solstice. I try to read Winter Solstice every Christmas; it’s a wonderfully entertaining book about how five strangers end up in the same house and end up having a better Christmas than any of them ever expected.

I read some of Robin’s books too to see how his literary style compared to his mother’s. He’s good, too. I also like how Robin is encouraging other writers to get going. He’s the founder behind a website called Shortbread Stories, which act as a showcase for short-story writers.

4) Dick Francis and Felix Francis — Dick Francis created unforgettable mysteries, all having something to do with the horse racing world. I like him because he features ordinary characters with some type of extraordinary talent caught up in extraordinary situations. His son Felix helped with the research and writing of several novels.

Although his dad passed away a while ago, Felix has converted some of his dad’s unfinished plots into more novels. The books are entertaining, but I can definitely see the difference in writing style and the “feel” of the novel.

There are several instances of other parent/child writing relationships, including well-known authors such as Stephen King and Mary Higgins Clark. It would be such a fascinating documentary to interview these writing teams, don’t you think?

I note that my particular generation of my dad’s family has produced people in a wide range of industries, ranging from teachers to administrators, government workers, restaurant owners and retail store employees. Some of those sibs and cousins have produced the next generation already and it’s fascinating to observe the emergence of a particular talent in each new male or female. Only one has shown that she likes to write; I wish her success.

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7 Comments

Filed under Writing

7 responses to “Of families and writing talent

  1. Interesting post. I can see how talent twists and turns in my family and my husband’s. Both sides have a creative gene that pops up here and there in different genres. It’s really interesting. I would love to be able to watch it in more generations (or even know what talents my grandparents had). I am not the only writer. I have a grand-niece whose poems have been published. My brother was an engineer who could write a business letter like no other.

    • And it’s not just writing that involves the creative talent, wouldn’t you say? Two of my family members are highly skilled at quilt making and five more are amazing cooks.

      • My husband’s father was an accomplished artist (that’s the kind that makes a lot of money from their work). No one else is a painter but it pops up in my husband as a furniture designer and other offspring as graphic designers, web creators, etc. Really amazing.

  2. A more recent example is Joe Hill, the son of Stephen King. I think he may be using the pseudonym to avoid trading on his father’s fame. Good writer. Just like dad.

  3. Tolkien’s son is also writing, though more or less following along on the trail his father forged. What is unusual is when the son or daughter of a famous writer writes well and does something entirely different. Haven’t seen much of that, but maybe I just haven’t heard about it.

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