There is nothing quite so thrilling as getting your hands on your favourite author’s latest book. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have started the first chapter before you’ve actually left the bookstore – sometimes before you’ve made it to the till. But even the most satisfying of endings to your latest literary purchase can’t stave off the inevitable dip that follows on from reading the last sentence… because who knows how long it will be before the writer gets around to releasing another one.
Typically, authors publish one or two books every three to five years, of course there are exceptions. Agatha Christie published one or two novels almost every year between 1921 and 1976 – she published three in 1934 alone; and that’s not to mention the short stories, poetry and travel writing she released in between. It’s hard to imagine anyone being quite so prolific, but Dame Barbara Cartland had Christie beat. Twenty-one years after her death, she still holds the Guinness World Record for ‘most novels published in a single year’: she released twenty-three titles in 1977. She was so prolific, that not even death could stop her career moving forward – several completed manuscripts were released posthumously. Of course, not everyone has the stamina, or desire to want to be a Christie or a Cartland. Many authors are content releasing a choice few books in their lifetime… regardless of their fans thirst for more.
There’s a horrible cliché that ‘women like to keep you waiting’; perhaps it’s better to say that ‘perfection can’t be rushed. Whatever your opinion, we thought we’d share five of the longest breaks female authors have taken between books:
11 years: Helen DeWitt – The Last Samurai (2000) and Lightning Rods (2011)
16 years: Susanna Clarke – Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004), Piranesi (2020)
20 years: Arundhati Roy – God of Small Things (1997), The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017)
27 years: Jean Rhys – Good Morning, Midnight (1939), Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)
55 years: Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) and Go Set A Watchman (2015)
*This last one is a little bit controversial... aside from the dubious circumstances surrounding its publishing, can Watchman really be considered a sequel, if was originally Mockingbird’s first draft?