Why Do Many Writers Live Overseas?

It’s not a requirement for writing, but take your favorite writers and look at how many have lived overseas. You might find a majority have lived outside their country of origin at some point in their life. Hemingway(US) had a long and extraordinary expat history, having had a home in Cuba and France, Spain and Canada. Graham Greene(British) was in Vietnam when he thought up The Quiet American, in Cuba for his development of Our Man in Havana and Mexico before writing The Power and the Glory. James Clavell(Australian) moved to the US to write his Asian sagas.

Of course, it’s clear the type of writing is influenced by the lifestyle. And it’s helpful to live in a place to build a novel about that place. So, what about some writers who weren’t making stories based on country? Arthur C. Clark(British), known for his space odysseys, lived the later part of his life on the island of Sri Lanka. Sci-fi and fantasy writer, Sarah A. Hoyt (Portuguese), lives in the US. And Mary Higgins Clark(US), a master of suspense, lived in Europe while working for Pan Am.

Is it the new ideas that can be gleaned from living in a foreign culture, the unstructured learning, the avalanche of new experiences, sights, smells, sounds, tastes that inspire? Or is there a freedom from our fixed concepts that allows us to express new and creative ideas?

Who are your favorite writers and where did they live?


2 thoughts on “Why Do Many Writers Live Overseas?

  1. NZ writers used to head back to the Motherland (England) on scholarships, so many have spent time there. Katherine Mansfield and Janet Frame are two of my favourites who write about their experience of being expats and then returning back to NZ. James K Baxter only went to India, but it was an influential trip, that’s for sure!


  2. Clarke. 🙂

    One of my favorite authors (H.P. Lovecraft) never lived overseas, but did write some of his best works after moving from small town Providence, RI to New York City. At that time (and especially in the context of his extreme xenophobia), NY was just as much another “country” as anything.

    I think that it’s the wealth of experiences that open one’s mind to the larger ideas needed for effective writing. Being somewhere different than what you are accustomed to is a fast way to rack up a variety of new experiences…the more different, the better.


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