top of page
  • Writer's pictureRobyn Shelbourne

6 Famous Authors Who Wrote About Their Hometown

"Write what you know."
Mark Twain

They say: "Write what you know." I always wondered who the collective "They" were. Haven't you? I like to think of them as women operating telephone switchboards and men with booming radio broadcast voices, both from the 1920s. "They" have a mouthful of words and a wealth of knowledge when it comes to advice and idioms. Pretty useful people, those "they's."

Mark Twain is the "they" who said: "Write what you know." As a historical fiction author, writing what you know isn't always plausible. Sometimes you don't know what you don't know until you know. Am I right? I have to do research on top of research for historical fiction, and I find myself constantly saying: "Oh wow! I didn't know that!"

There's a difference between newfound knowledge and born-into knowledge of time, places, culture, dialogue, dialect, regional customs, and stories. The born-into "knowing" is ingrained into the fibers of our being. It's part of us, and we can't unknow it.

When I started writing my novel, Lady Riot, I went back and forth between setting it in Kentucky or someplace else. After all, isn't traveling to another place and time the supreme perk of being an author or avid reader? Kentucky seemed dull and ordinary because I'd lived there forever and couldn't see the forest for the trees. Good, bad, and ugly Kentucky is rich in culture, customs, and traditions. Why not write about them, I thought. So, I did, I am.

Being the researcher I am, I discovered a select few authors who also decided to write about what they know and where they're from.

These authors set their award-winning novels in their hometowns:


To Kill A Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird was set in fictional city, Maycomb, Alabama and based on Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.


Mrs. Dalloway

by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway was set in London where Woolf was born.


The Catcher in the Rye

by J.D. Salinger

Salinger was born in New York, where the setting of the infamous The Catcher in the Rye novel took place.


The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in Minnesota was raised primarily in New York where The Great Gatsby was set.



by Toni Morrison

Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio, a little less than four hours from Cincinnati, Ohio where the novel Beloved was set.


A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorainne Hansberry

Lorainne Hansberry was born in Chicago, Illinois and A Raisin in the Sun was set in Chicago's South Side.

These classic literary novels serve as an inspiration to bring my hometown to life. I can't wait to introduce you to the good, bad, and ugly of Paducah, Kentucky, the town I call home.



32 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page