“And Charlie, don’t forget about what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he ever wanted. He lived happily ever after.”
Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
I love reading about successful writers: their tough childhoods and miserable teen years; their escapes into fantasy and words; their oddball passions that eventually worm their way into their creative work; and their battle to get words onto the page. Their personal stories and struggles give me hope that mine will bear fruit as well — and their ability to mine their lives for ideas encourages me to do the same. And there’s always a happy ending: beloved books that sell!
Roald Dahl, the creator of the classic children’s story Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, delivers on all these fronts. As a young student, he was described by one English master as “incapable of marshalling his thoughts on paper.” His absolutely Dickensian prep school experience was relieved only by the arrival of boxes of test chocolates bars from Cadbury — a memory that 35 years later became the heart of one of the most popular children’s classics of all time. In fact, the Chinese edition of Charlie was the biggest printing of any book ever — two million copies!
Roald Dahl couldn’t type and wrote all his stories with a pencil, working in a dingy little hut that he regarded as his haven. He’d begin working at 10:30 then break at midday for lunch and a drink. After an afternoon read, he’d head back to the hut for another couple of hours. “I’m a disciplined writer,” he observed, adding, “I don’t think any writer works for particularly long hours because he can’t — he becomes inefficient.” He always wrote several drafts because he noted, “I never get anything right the first time.” Charlie started out as a dark mystery story and Dahl rewrote it six times before he achieved the luscious literary feast that children still dote on today. All of which inspires me to write on!