America’s most loved novel

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

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In a 2014 Harris poll, women in the United States voted it their second most favourite book, and their most loved novel.
(Number #1 spot is still held by the Bible.)

The novel was: ‘Gone with the Wind’.

It is the one they give a damn about the most.

But who was the woman who wrote it – and what was her inspiration?

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, bestsellerWell, her name was Margaret Mitchell – and she was bored.

She had broken her ankle and it was taking a long time to heal. All she could do was read.

Her husband was fed up with bringing home stacks of book from the library every day.

Why don’t you write your own book? he said and bought her a Remington Portable No. 3 typewriter.

So she did.

The book she wrote – Gone with the Wind – did reasonably well for a first novel.

It sold a million copies in its first 6 months, won the Pulitzer Prize and when movie rights were sold, it went on to become the best picture of 1939.

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, bestsellerWriting was in Margaret;s blood. She wrote endless stories as a child – her mother collected them all in white enamel bread boxes.

When she went to Atlanta’s Washington Seminary School she joined the Literary Club and had two stories published in the yearbook: Little Sister and Sergeant Terry.

And at 15 she wrote a romance novella set in the South Pacific called Lost Laysen.

She gave the two notebooks containing the work to a boyfriend, who went by the unlikely name of Henry Love Angel.

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, bestsellerBut that might have been the end of her literary career, for Mitchell never thought she was really all that good.

What she was good at – like Scarlett – was flirting.

In 1922 an Atlanta gossip columnist wrote that she had ‘more honest-to-goodness suitors than almost any other girl in Atlanta.’

She was engaged to five men at various times, and once dated two men at the same time – seeing them both daily.

They were Red Upshaw, and his roommate and friend, John R. Marsh.

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, bestseller

Scarlett – more than a passing resemblance to her author

Upshaw earned money bootlegging alcohol out of the Georgia mountains while Marsh was a copy editor for AP.

In effect they were … Ashley and Rhett.

Red married Margaret – or Red married Scarlett – on September 2, 1922. March, read Ashley, was best man.

Three months later the marriage was gone with the wind, because of Upshaw’s alcoholism and violent temper.

Unexpected plot twist: three years later Mitchell married Marsh. 

While separated from her first husband, Mitchell had been supporting herself as a columnist for The Atlanta Journal.

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, bestsellerBut several months after her marriage to Marsh she broke her ankle and had to resign.

So he bought her the typewriter and she set to work on a Civil War era novel called Tote the Weary Load featuring a heroine called Pansy O’Hara.

She wrote her story by chapters, storing them in manila envelopes, then stacking them in various places around their house.

She even used parts of it to prop up a wobbly couch.

And that might have been that.

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, bestseller

Copyright:MacMillan publishers. Qualifies under fair use.

But ten years later Harold Latham, an editor for MacMillan, visited Atlanta on a literary scouting trip. Mitchell was asked to show him around and introduce him to new writers.

She did not tell him about her own MS – she didn’t think it was good enough.

But she was incensed when she heard that another woman had said to Latham – that Margaret Mitchell could never write a novel! – and fiddle-dee-dee, she rushed to his hotel just before he left and threw the whole mess at him. Well great balls of fire and don’t call me sugar.

Most of the pages were mildewed and the chapters were out of order. 

It was so massive Latham had to buy a cheap cardboard suitcase just to carry the thing.

The next day she called him and asked for it back. He refused.

He published it instead – with a new title: Gone With the Wind. The book experienced huge success even before the first copy hit the stores.

The movie rights were sold to David O. Selznick for $50,000 – a record at the time.

When the film achieved its monumental success he decided he had underpaid her, and sent her an additional $50,000.

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, bestseller(Yeah, that’d happen today!)

The book on its own sold a million copies in the first six months.

Mitchell was not prepared for such success; the phone rang off the hook, fan letters poured in – and she answered them all personally.

It was a runaway success – and yet it was the only novel she ever published in her lifetime. Mitchell was the classic one hit wonder. What happened? Did fame frighten her or did she think she could never repeat her first success?

Whatever the reason, she vowed never to write a sequel – and she kept her word.

So what became of Rhett and Scarlett? “For all I know, Rhett may have found someone else who was less difficult,’ was Mitchell’s response.

She certainly didn’t need to write again; she had become a legend in her own time. Gone with the Wind has now sold over 40 million copies and according to a recent Harris Poll it is the second favorite book by American readers – just behind the Bible. It has been translated into 70 different languages

Photo J. Glover

Photo J. Glover

But its creator is long gone; she was killed  by a drunk driver on her way to see a movie with her husband in 1949 .

Henry Love Angel died in 1994.

His son found the novella Mitchell wrote as a fifteen year old hidden away with some letters she had written to him.

It was published in 1996, eighty years after it was written.

It, too, became a New York Times best seller.

So I guess she wasn’t a one hit wonder after all.

 

kindle bestseller, amazon bestseller, top selling romance

When fiery and idealistic Kitty O’Kane escapes the crushing poverty of Dublin’s tenements, she’s determined that no one should ever suffer like she did. As she sets out to save the world, she finds herself at the forefront of events that shaped the early twentieth century. While working as a maid, she survives the sinking of the Titanic. As a suffragette in New York’s Greenwich Village, she’s jailed for breaking storefront windows. And traveling war-torn Europe as a journalist, she’s at the Winter Palace when it’s stormed by the Bolsheviks. Ultimately she returns to her homeland to serve as a nurse in the Irish Civil War.

During Kitty’s remarkable journey, she reunites with her childhood sweetheart, Tom Doyle, but Tom doesn’t know everything about her past—a past that continues to haunt her. Will Kitty accept that before she can save everyone else, she needs to find a way to save herself? Or will the sins of her past stop her from pursuing her own happiness?

colin falconer, kitty o'kane, historical romance

COLIN FALCONER

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and the chance to win copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

 

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18 Comments

  1. Hi Colin, What a wonderful story thank you. I think Gone With The Wind was a fantastic film and well worth all the glory it received, and the writer of the book WOW ! she certainly deserves all the praise. So thanks for enlightening us all.

  2. Awesome story. Can you imagine any publisher saying “I didn’t pay you enough” theses days?

    Cheers

  3. Fascinating! I didn’t know any of this. Well, other than it was her only novel.

    • Neither did I before I started, Julie. I was struck with how her new author neurosis came through again and again – she didn’t think she was good enough. . She had no inkling of where that book would take her.

  4. I owe Margaret Mitchell a great debt; she helped me define myself as a writer and as a woman. Great post.

  5. I did know all this, or most of it, and found your post fascinating, anyway. And the photo of you is terrific! I loved your Barcelona posts, too.

    • Thanks Sherry. I like to include a little bit of stuff about Barcelona now and then, because this town – and this country – is so fascinating. I think Margaret Mitchell is one of those JK Rowling stories, there was a conjunction of the stars that contributed to her success, but she so deserved it anyway.

  6. Very good article. Very inspiring. I didn’t know anything about the author of Gone With the Wind before. Thanks!

  7. Hi.

    The title of the article is great. 😀
    Interesting article. I didn’t know all the details. The notion of “underpaid” and its settlement, sounds alien today.

  8. Fascinating, Colin. I had heard several things about Mitchell and her novel, but everything you have presented here is new to me. Today all that extra cash would most likely be shoved in someone else’s pocket.

  9. Excellent post. Strange how things work out…

  10. Actually, I was thinking more of Harper Lee than JKR, who has kept quite busy since Harry Potter – one book, then haul out the manuscript she wrote when she was young, except she lived long enough to enjoy it.

    It’s a wonderful story about the writing and making the movie is another fascinating tale in its own right. I once heard a woman who’d played Scarlett’s sister say it was actually better to have a British actress in the role of Scarlett, than a Northern American, because like Southerners, British don’t roll their Rs.

    To be honest, though, I read the novel in my teens and thought it a 1000 page Mills and Boon at the time – a 1000 page RACIST Mills and Boon! Good luck to her for the sales and what a terrific publisher! But I really don’t think I could read it again.

  11. Beyond a doubt one of my favorite books! Thanks for the background on Margaret Mitchell. Did her publisher change the heroine’s name from Pansy to Scarlett? A sequel was written by Alexandra Ripley in 1991, chosen by the Margaret Mitchell estate to continue the story. Ripley was born in the south and has 3 bestselling novels herself. Sorry I can’t comment on the book since I haven’t read it, despite possessing a copy for at least 10 years! I guess I don’t want the perfection of that captivating story altered. . . though I am curious.

    • Hi Lennie, I think she changed Scarlett’s name – but at her publisher’s urging. And I’m not a big fan of sequels either, especially when I suspect they’ve been shoved out there to make money – like Harper Lee’s so-called second book!

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