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Where the Magic Happens: Inside Writers’ Homes

Many aspiring novelists toil for years on manuscripts, while working low paid day jobs to make ends meet. For the lucky few, however, a best-seller brings with it fame and financial freedom. While not all become multi-millionaires, literary success allows successful writers the freedom to live in their ideal creative domiciles.

Edith Wharton Newport, R.I.

Novelist and short story writer, Edith Wharton, didn’t have to deal with the hardships of poverty as she was born into an affluent New York family. Best known for her novel “The Age of Innocence,” which won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize, Wharton’s former oceanfront estate in Newport, R.I., an 11,000-square-foot behemoth with eight bedrooms and three bathrooms just sold for $8.6 million, according to Realtor.com. The writer purchased her home with then husband Edward Robbins Wharton, in 1893 for $80,000 — about $2.3 million in today’s dollars. Not bad for a mansion the author described in her autobiography as “an ugly wooden house with half an acre of rock and illimitable miles of Atlantic Ocean.” In addition to the main house is a carriage house with 3 bedrooms.

The home is steeped in historic detail including moldings, mantels and plenty of chintz. Walls and ceilings whirl dizzyingly through the color spectrum — buttercream, blood red, burgundy, peach, light green, blue and more. There’s a wood-paneled study, billiards rooms and French doors which open to the ocean. And, in you’re so disposed, there’s also a room for cutting flowers.

While Wharton, who famously suffered from intense bouts of depression, may not have appreciated her home (she later moved to France), the property has kept in high society since she lived there. The recent seller is Victoria Leiter Mele and her husband Joe Mele. Previously the property was owned by Mele’s mother, Marion “Oatsie” Charles, a grand dame of Newport society and well-known Washington, D.C. socialite, who died in 2018 aged 99.

The younger Mele told Realtor.com that she was personal acquaintances of the new buyers and appreciated the transaction taking place despite the pandemic.

The listing agent was Kendra C. Toppa of Lila Delman, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate.

Stephen King — Bangor, ME

You’d imagine horror master Stephen King to live in a historic home that looks as if it could be haunted. And he does! The scare king has spent most of his successful years living in a blood red mansion with an ornate gate embellished with hellish bats. Recently he and his longtime wife Tabitha have become snow birds, and often spend their winters in Florida. Partly due to intense tourist interest around his famous red house, King also spends time at another property in Oxford County, Maine. Thus, Bangor City Council have allowed King to rezone his noted home as a non-profit to house an archive of his work and open it up for part of the year to visiting writers (by appointment only).

“The King Family has been wonderful to the City of Bangor over time and have donated literally millions of dollars to various causes in the community,” Bangor city council member Bergen Sprague told Rolling Stone. “Preserving his legacy here in Bangor is important for this community.”

Marlon James — Minneapolis, MN

Jamaican-American writer Marlon James won the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 2016 for “A Brief History of Seven Killings.” The retelling of the attempted assassination of Bob Marley was groundbreaking, merging fact and fiction, weaving in tales of gay hitmen and Rolling Stone journalists, alongside the reggae superstar. Its follow-up “Black Leopard, Red Wolf,” a finalist for the National Book Award, continued its writer’s genre bending journey, merging African myth and folklore with high fantasy.

Surprising then, perhaps that James’ vivid imagination casts its spells from snowy Minneapolis, where he is a professor at Macalester College. His writing lair is a bohemian loft filled with books, pop culture artwork, photographs, records and plants.

“I always loved the idea of the living room as social space,” he told the New York Times in 2016. “As a writer, I’m alone most of my time, so I like entertaining. There will be wine and olives out and people over. Usually, I’m cooking Jamaican food.”

J.K. Rowling — Edinburgh and Perthshire, Scotland

Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling is a billionaire and earns an estimated $100,000 per day from e-book sales alone. The prolific scribe, fittingly, divides her time between two homes in Scotland — land of mysticism, myths and frosty mornings. (She also owns a Georgian home in London’s pricey Kensington) One is in Edinburgh, which she purchased in 2009, and another is a country estate in Perthshire, which she acquired in 2001.

Rowling, who is recovering from Covid-19, was in the midst of renovating her Edinburgh home and installing 4-foot security gates at her estate, when she came down with the illness, according to the Daily Mail.

In 2015, she sold her Hogwarts-style Edinburgh mansion for $2.25 million. Prior to that she sold another historic Edinburgh home for $2.25 million in 2012.

George R.R. Martin, Sante Fe, NM

Despite being a multi-millionaire George R.R. Martin resides in a fairly modest building in Sante Fe, New Mexico. In fact, from the outside it’s hard to believe that the prolific Game of Thrones creator would call somewhere so low key home. Ok, so he owns other properties on the same street but when asked why he isn’t living in some epic medieval fortress, with a drawbridge, moat mechanical dragons breathing gasoline fueled fire, he told the UK’s Daily Telegraph, “I don’t want the fame to go to my head.”

It’s only when you step inside one of his properties and see a library room dedicated to the author’s own works and figurines from them that you might get the impression there’s something a little different about its owner. Oh, there are also stained glass windows with heraldry from the houses in the books. Considering the kind of home Martin could build this is refreshingly unassuming and anti-celebrity. Rumor has it that Martin still has a listed phone number too.

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