My “Writing Heroes” #2/6 – Those who publish late in life

Have you heard of “The Fraud Squad“?

Neither have I. But I’m betting you’ve heard of “Crazy Rich Asians” and “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Well, it seems that a fellow countryman, or should I say countrywoman, of mine had just scored a major coup!

At the tender age of 23, Ms. Kyla Zhao hit the big time at the end of last month by inking a deal with Berkeley Publishing, an imprint of one of the literary world’s heavyweights, Penguin Random House.

This Vogue Singapore intern was awarded (you ready for it?) a whopping six-figure sum to write a book called (you guessed it) “The Fraud Squad“. It’s a book that’s positioned as (again you guessed it) CRA meets TDWP.

Now don’t rush over to your favourite book store just yet. TFS’ publication date is set for (get this) January 2023.

Yep, you read right. It’s no typo. The book won’t be out for another one-and-a-half years from now!

Oh, and like if that wasn’t a big enough WOW, this young lady is already contracted to write a follow-up, also to the tune of six figures!

But life’s a marathon luv, not a sprint

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Now I don’t mean to be some sage grandpa raining on her parade (although I swear it is pouring cats and dogs outside my window right now as I type this!). Nor am I some sour grape grouch envying her windfall (well, maybe just a teeny-weeny bit).

But I do hope for her sake she’s sufficiently grounded not to let this sudden fame get to her head.

Of course, in my humble opinion, the odds are already stacked against her keeping both feet firmly on the ground. I say this base on her choices of geography and industry.

Firstly, though Ms. Zhao’s from Singapore, she’s based mainly in California and would be headed back there soon to take on a marketing job in Silicon Valley.

Secondly, she has worked for Vogue and had bylines in publications like Harper’s Bazaar and Tatler.

If ever there was a more materialistically driven setup for a young woman to plunge headlong into, I’m hard-pressed here to name it off the top of my head!

So let me just say a short prayer for Ms. Zhao. That when the rubber meets the road, she will remain anchored and not drift dangerously along on some magic flying carpet.

After all, life really is a marathon and not a sprint. Sudden bursts of fireworks are usually followed just as suddenly by a crash and a burn! Like the proverbial tortoise and hare tale, slow and steady still wins the race, mate!

But reading about young writers like Ms. Zhao did remind me about the second set of “new heroes” in my life.

(Do click here if you’ve not read about my first set of heroes)


…writers who publish their first book late in life!

person holding white ceramci be happy painted mug
Photo by Lisa on

Okay, confession time.

I do have a vested interest in today’s post, seeing as I just turned 51 and had posted earlier this month about wishing (of all things) to be a grandpa!

So if Ms. Zhao and her ilk are itching to have a go at me for my earlier comments, I won’t protest.

But before they do, I have to at least express my relief and gratefulness for the many other writers who have shown this old fogey that really, it’s no shame to publish only in one’s twilight years.

In fact, many of these writers (shown below with their first publication and age when it happened) surprised me:

  • Bram Stoker. Dracula. 50.
  • Charles Bukowski. Post Office. 51
  • Raymond Chandler. The Big Sleep. 51.
  • Karen Blixen aka Isak Dinesen. Out of Africa. 52.
  • Richard Adams. Watership Down. 52.
  • Annie Proulx. Heart Songs and Other Stories. 53
  • Elizabeth Jolly. Five Acre Virgin and Other Stories. 53
  • Nirad Chaudhuri. The Autobiography of An Unknown Indian. 54
  • Anna Sewell. Black Beauty. 57.
  • Frank McCourt. Angela’s Ashes. 60
  • Laura Ingalis. Little House in the Big Woods. 65.
  • Lorna Page. A Dangerous Weakness. 93.

In fact, some of these folks even languished for several more years before their second published work. Like Chaudhuri, who only published his second book when he was 90, and his final book when he turned 100!

And if you throw in other names who may have published before 50, but only found fame with works they published after 50 — names like George Elliot, Jose Saramago, and Wallace Stevens — then you know, or more to the point, I know I’m in great company!

Even the likes of famous writers such as Twain and Tolkein only published their masterpieces after 40, proving once and for all that, like wine, writers can only get better as they grow older.

My best writing years are still ahead of me!

healthy road landscape fashion

These “new heroes” of mine assure me that writing remains one of the most accessible and timeless of skills to hone throughout one’s life.

Which gives little old me (and I guess I really am both little and old now aren’t I?!) lots of hope.

Hope that even as my writings often feel as burdensome and heavy as my feet are after a long morning run, they are nonetheless my stamp on the world. Even if my world is just the four walls surrounding my writing desk.

Hope that even when my blog ideas look tired and uninteresting, like one out of a million other similar blogs, they’re mine and so deserve their day in the sun. Even if the sun shines equally on everyone else’s writing as well.

Hope that even on days when no one wants to read my writing, they would still have me for company. And my children (cos I’m their father and they jolly well better read what I tell them to read!).

So here’s a toast to more “wine” years of writing ahead (*chink*).

And maybe even a nice and ripe old age to publish a bestseller, yah?

But (pardon me Mr. Chaudhuri and Ms. Page), just not after 90, please!

One thought on “My “Writing Heroes” #2/6 – Those who publish late in life

  1. Oh yeah, Bukowski is a great inspiration in that regard, because he’s struggled through a full-time job before making that final leap, and every time I think about trading job security for my dream of writing fiction full time, I think of Bukowski!

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