Writers in the Family?

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
My current WIP, the fifth novel in my Cornish Detective series, is set in the artist community of Cornwall. The county is famed for its artistic history after coastal villages were discovered to be ideal places to paint outdoors owing to their wonderful natural light.

I've always been interested in art and trained as a creative arts teacher. This year, in preparation for writing, I've been doing a lot of research on art theft and forgery, including signing up to many art newsletters. This morning, in The Painter's Keys, site owner Sara Genn posted an article on dynastic artists: The dynastic artist - The Painters Keys

She's the daughter of an artist. In the article, there's a link to a fascinating piece on the job you're most likely to inherit from your mother and father.

My own father was a highly-respected industrial photographer—if you see a publicity shot for Concorde, there's a good chance he took it. My parents both loved reading, encouraging their children to use the public lending library, but, so far as I know, there has never been any authors in the family apart from me.

Czeslaw Milosz, a 20th-century Polish poet, said:

When a writer is born into a family, the family is finished.

This may be true, and there's sure to be odious comparisons made by critics if a child follows the literary career of their parent; rivalry too, if siblings become writers. There have been many dynasties of writers, including the Waugh, Amis and Dumas families. Stephen King's wife and sons are writers. H.G. Wells and Rebecca West's son Anthony West wrote a dozen books. Canadian author Mordecai Richler passed on his writing genes to five children. Charles Dickens Jr steered clear of writing novels and published two dictionaries. Margaret Drabble and A.S. Byatt are sisters and fierce rivals, then there are the Brontë sisters and the Brothers Grimm. Suspense writer Mary Higgins Clarke has penned several novels with her daughter Carol. And, don't get me started on writing in-laws....

Do any of you have writers in the family—or, are you the only one?
No fiction writers, but I was lucky, there were always lots of books. Ancestral rellies that I know of on the maternal side include naturalists, herpetology a passion, a horrid Governor of South Australia; a ghastly swine Sir Henry Lionel Gallwey/Galway . There is also a painter, John Hoppner contemporary of the now much better known Reynolds. He married an American, a very early Brit-American marriage after American Independence was declared. The word was, he was an illegitimate son of good/mad/farmer George 111. Horrors. The shame. Lots of gaps on my father's side. He did write, though he wrote non fiction. His side, Irish, came over in the twenties from Kildare and further back, Mayo. There could be story writers, or maybe bards. Could be thieves or murderers! We'll all have so much more in the mix than we will ever know about. Which might be a blessing.
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I'm the only one. My mother was an artist though -- oil painting. My grandmother designed clothing. On my mother's side of the family, the women were all wildly creative and crazy. I'm not sure if the two go together naturally because the men on my mother's side of the family were a little monstrous. Perhaps they were driven crazy. Creatively, there was very little my grandmother or my mother couldn't do and none of them went anywhere without a novel. But for some reason, none of them wrote.
My mother used to write--pieces for Reader's Digest (about the horrors and joys of raising us kids, mostly), and scripts for a children's television show. She was my first copy editor, and she was brutal.
My great-uncle was a colonial historian and anaesthetist named Oliver Ransford who wrote what would now be considered triumphalist narratives about Zambia and Malawi. On my mother's side I'm also distantly related to the South African writer Alan Paton (Cry the Beloved Country). In my father's family we claim to be related to Bonnie Jean Armour who married the great Scottish poet Robert Burns, though every Armour I have ever met says the same thing.

My father went off to study genealogy about the family and said we were a pack of sheep-stealers, rabble-rousers and witches. I thought that sounded wonderful but he said it wasn't that exciting. Petty criminals, eccentric and unmarriageable women, people with unpopular opinions. We're all voracious readers and letter-writers.
My mum (RIP) was a many times published author of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Eldest brother (RIP) too - but not fiction. Other brother, also a writer, mainly popular science and proper science. Wife of dead brother was a non-fiction author, but now venturing into fiction. A cousin (also recently RIPed) also a fiction writer.... I could go on. My dad (RIP), as you know already, was a publisher and a painter and he was the son of two well known painters. He couldn't paint until both were long dead. I'm finding my feet as a writer only now, having recently lost 3 of the 4 other members of my immediate family.
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