Meet the Author ~ Wilbur SmithHellobooks
“I tried to live by the advice of Charles Pick, my first publisher and mentor who became my literary agent: he said, “Write only about those things you know well.” Since then I have written only about Africa.”
~ Wilbur Smith
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The bestselling author, Wilbur Smith was born on January 9, 1933 in Kabwe, Zambia. Best known for his intriguing stories set in Africa during the 16th and 17th century eras, Wilbur takes his reader on a historical ride of fiction revolving around the influence of the English and Dutch in Southern Africa.
Smith was struck with an episode of cerebral malaria in infancy. Although the doctors did not give any hope of a normal life for Smith after the disease, Smith, however, survived it and surely did not grow up to lead a normal life. He became a bestselling and exceptional writer. His adventurous childhood was spent roaming around his father’s 12,000 hectare ranch where he played with the small black sons of ranch workers. The boys would spend long afternoons on the ranch hiking, hunting and trapping small birds and mammals by making use of their slingshots. At night, his mother would read him novels full of excitement and escape which developed in Wilbur an early interest for reading and writing. Wilbur Smith was primarily educated at a boarding school, Cordwalles Preparatory School in Natal and also at Michaelhouse, located on the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains. At Michaelhouse, Wilbur wrote most of the content of a school newspaper he had started.
Moving on to obtaining a higher education, Wilbur enrolled at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa becoming a journalist upon graduation. He wrote excessively about the social issues and conditions in South Africa. However, his father who had never been supportive of Wilbur’s writing, insisted him to get a real job. Therefore, Wilbur studied further to become a Chartered Accountant. Smith married and had two children. The marriage, however, ended in a disastrous divorce when Smith was only twenty-four. Smith was held responsible for paying an allowance and child support which left him completely broke. Wilbur turned back to writing in an attempt to fix his life. His first novel, The Gods First Make Mad was rejected and he was forced to resume working as a tax accountant. But the urge to write pinned him again and in 1964, Wilbur published his first successful novel, When the Lion Feeds. The story is a blend of African history, perspectives of white and black people, hate, love, hunting, gold mining and women. Smith decided to become a full-time writer when the book was offered a film deal Wilbur accepted.
After the publication of his first novel, Smith married once again and had another child. This marriage too ended in a divorce. In 1971, Smith married for a third time, his new wife, Danielle Thomas was a divorcee who had been born in the same town as Smith. She was his fan who had read all his books. Smith dedicated all his books to her until her death after a 6-year illness of cancer in 1999. Smith’s fourth marriage took place in May 2000. He met his fourth wife, Mokhiniso Rakhimova, a Tadjik girl in a bookstore in London. Mokhiniso, a law graduate was 39 years his junior.
In December 2012, it was announced that Smith was leaving his English-language publisher of 45 years, Pan Macmillan, to move to HarperCollins. As part of his new deal, Smith will be writing select novels with co-writers, in addition to writing books on his own. In a press release Smith was quoted as saying: “For the past few years my fans have made it very clear that they would like to read my novels and revisit my family of characters faster than I can write them. For them, I am willing to make a change to my working methods so the stories in my head can reach the page more frequently.”
The first of the co-written novels are:
• ‘Golden Lion’ (2015), a Courtney novel
• ‘Predator’ (2016) is contemporary
• ‘Pharaoh’ (2016) brought us back to Ancient Egypt
• ‘War Cry” a Courtney novel (2017)
• ‘The Tiger’s Prey’ (2017), a Courtney novel
An author to over 30 novels, Wilbur Smith continues to write bestselling novels. He currently resides in London.
By Anna Howcroft, founder of Hellobooks