Literary Birthday – 9 January – Wilbur Smith

Wilbur Smith was born 9 January 1933 and died 13 November 2021.


  1. I have been blessed in many ways, and one of those is to have been born in Africa, for me a great treasure house of stories. I have been researching it since my infancy; reading about it, talking to men and women who have spent their lives in this land, living it as I have and loving it as I do. I write almost entirely from my own experience.
  2. I’m a writer – if I stop writing, I’m nothing.
  3. My first novel was rejected by some of the most eminent publishers in the world. Starting again was a real wrench.
  4. To me, my characters are more real than most people I meet.
  5. At the age of 12 I won the school prize for Best English Essay. The prize was a copy of Somerset Maugham’s Introduction To Modern English And American Literature. To this day I keep it on the shelf between my collection of Forester’s works and the little urn that contains my mother’s ashes.
  6. Despite the fact that I spend a lot of time in London, Switzerland and New York, Africa is the place I know and love best, and my heart will always lie here.
  7. I never set out to write literature; I set out to tell stories.
  8. The first novel I wrote was a monster – clocking in at 180,000 words – but it died a death, a death it deserved. It was called The Gods First Make Mad. It was a good title, but it was the only good thing about the book. I didn’t let that put me off.
  9. Write for yourself, not for a perceived audience. If you do, you’ll mostly fall flat on your face, because it’s impossible to judge what people want. And you have to read. That’s how you learn what is good writing and what is bad. Then the main thing is application. It’s hard work.
  10. What I like about writing is the sense of godlike power it gives you.

Read: 6 Bits Of Writing Advice From Wilbur Smith

Wilbur Smith was a best-selling South African novelist who sold more than 120 million books. He was best known for The Courtney Series, which began with When the Lion Feeds, The Ballantyne Series, and The Egyptian Series. Several of his novels have been turned into movies, including Shout at the DevilThe Burning Shore,  and The Seventh Scroll.

Source for Image: wilbur smithjimincairns, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

by Amanda Patterson

Are you interested in more authors’ birthdays? Please click here: Literary Birthday Calendar

Posted on: 9th January 2014