Authors Who Couldn’t Quit the Characters That Made Them Famous

Here is a list of famous writers, including J.K. Rowling, who couldn’t resist reconnecting with their creations.

J.K. Rowling Authors Can't Quit
J.K. Rowling isn't the only author who can't seem to get away from their most famous characters. © POOL/Reuters/Corbis

J.K. Rowling plans to release a new short story set in her beloved Harry Potter universe on Halloween. But fans looking for more adventures featuring Harry or the other members of Dumbledore’s Army might be disappointed: the author says the next tale will be told from the perspective of Dolores Umbridge, the universally disliked Hogwarts professor.

After the successful conclusion of her seven-volume Harry Potter series, Rowling shifted gears and penned The Casual Vacancy, a book aimed squarely at adults that dealt with drugs, prostitution and rape. She also tried to secretly publish a detective series under the pen name of Robert Galbraith, but it wasn’t long before the author’s true identity was leaked to the media.

Despite stating that she is unlikely to write any more books in the Harry Potter series, Rowling has been unable to resist revisiting her magical universe. Besides the upcoming Umbridge story, she released a short story in July, 2014, that included glimpses of an adult Harry Potter at the Quidditch World Cup Finals.

Rowling isn’t the only writer to revisit her old literary haunts and famous characters. Many others tried to close the book on their famous creations only to be drawn back by the demands of fans and publishers, or because they felt there were more stories to tell.

Arthur Conan Doyle:

Author Conan Doyle, the British creator of the world’s most famous detective, eventually came to view his popular literary creation as a burden. In 1891, just five years after the publication of A Study in Scarlet, the first novel to feature Holmes and his sidekick James Watson, Doyle wrote to his mother: “I think of slaying Holmes…and winding him up for good and all. He takes my mind from better things.”

Two years later, he did just that in The Final Problem, a story in which Holmes plunges to his death down Reichenbach Falls along with his nemesis Professor Moriarty.

For a period, Conan Doyle focused on “better things,” which, in his mind, included history books. But in 1903, he gave in to popular demand and penned The Hound of the Baskervilles, a story set before Holmes’ death. Two years later, in 1903, he yielded entirely and resurrected Holmes for good in the story The Adventure of the Empty House, in which he proclaimed that reports of Holmes’ death had been faked.

Ian Fleming:

Beginning with Casino Royale in 1953 and ending with Octopussy and The Living Daylights (a collection of novellas) in 1966, British author Ian Fleming wrote more than a dozen novels and short stories featuring the fictional MI6 officer James Bond.

Despite Bond’s success, Fleming was ambivalent about his famous creation. He called Bond a “cardboard booby” and a “blunt instrument;” once, he said, “I can’t say I much like the chap.”

Perhaps wanting a change of pace, Fleming took the unusual step of writing his ninth Bond novel, The Spy Who Loved Me, from the point of view of a young Canadian woman, Vivienne Michel. Bond himself does not appear until two-thirds of the way through the book. The book was not well received, however, and in the next book, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Fleming returned to his usual style.

Brandon Sanderson:

One of fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson’s earliest works was the Mistborn trilogy, a series about “allomancers” who gain superhero-like powers after ingesting and “burning” various metals.

After the publication in 2008 of The Hero of Ages, the final book in the trilogy, Sanderson kept busy with numerous other projects, including a number of standalone fantasy books as well as a new series, a novella based on the popular video game Infinity Blade and the completion of Robert Jordan’s epic The Wheel of Time series.

But in 2011, Sanderson returned to the mythical planet of Scadrial with The Alloy of Law, which takes place 300 years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy. Sanderson has said that the work that eventually turned into The Alloy of Law began as a creative writing exercise, to help clear his head in-between projects.

John Scalzi:

American science fiction author John Scalzi’s literary debut was Old Man’s War, a book in which senior citizens of Earth are recruited to help defend human colonies in space from a variety of hostile aliens.

A prolific writer, Scalzi has penned other sci-fi books, including his 2012 book Redshirts that won the 2013 Hugo Award for best novel. But he has returned to the Old Man’s War universe, first in two follow-up novels featuring his main character John Perry, and then in another book told from the point of view of John’s daughter.

In 2012, Scalzi published The Human Division, which takes place after the events involving John Perry, and another novel set in the same universe is in the works.

George R.R. Martin:

George R.R. Martin’s fame has skyrocketed since his dark and gritty A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels were made into the hit HBO television series “Game of Thrones,” but so has the pressure from fans to complete the series.

Martin’s heavy involvement in the production of the television series and his work on other books has meant he has not released new installments in the ASoIaF series as quickly as some readers would like. This has led to some testy exchanges with fans who crassly worried that Martin would die before finishing the series, as well as a “Saturday Night Live” sketch that ridiculed his writer’s block.

Martin is currently working on The Winds of Winter, the sixth installment of the series. A publication date has not been set yet.

Arthur C. Clarke:

Arthur C. Clarke was a prolific science fiction writer, an uncanny futurist and a popular television host, but he is perhaps best known for being the co-writer, along with Stanley Kubrick, of the screenplay for the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The screenplay was eventually published as a novel, although key details differed between movie and book.

Clarke went on to write many other books and short stories, but he repeatedly returned to the Space Odyssey universe, beginning with the publication of 2010: Odyssey Two in 1982.

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