13 Best Authors From New Orleans

Discover 13 authors from New Orleans that will make you appreciate the city’s rich culture.

Authors from New Orleans showcase the city’s rich and unique culture by letting their experiences penetrate their literary contributions. The city is a melting pot of French, African, and American culture.

New Orleans is the largest city in Louisiana, spanning 902.1 square kilometers. With the metro area home to over one million people, it’s no wonder it sparks inspiration.

In addition to producing world-class authors, New Orleans is known for its sizeable theatrical community of playwrights. What’s more, New Orleans authors are incredibly connected to the place.

Let’s take it from one of its legendary writers, Anne Rice: “New Orleans, though beautiful and desperately alive, was desperately fragile… New Orleans seemed at all times like a dream in the imagination of her striving populace, a dream held intact at every second by a tenacious though unconscious collective will.

It truly is a great place that has inspired many artists’ work.

Do you want to discover modern writers? Here’s our roundup of the best 21st-century authors.

Best Authors From New Orleans Ranked

1. Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams’ apartment is now a part of the literary landmark of New Orleans

Tennessee Williams had a happy yet dysfunctional family. Because of them, he had plenty of reasons to want to break free. He moved to a new city, focused on his thoughts and emotions, and honed his writing skills.

He finally settled in New Orleans, where he became a successful playwright and screenwriter. Many know him for his controversial themes, based on his life experiences: dysfunctional families, fear of death, sexual desire, and more.

Williams’s acclaimed play, A Streetcar Named Desire, tells the story of two opposite sisters, Blanche and Stella. His other notable plays include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Vieux Carré. His plays garnered many awards, and some became successful movies, establishing him as one of the most famous playwrights of the 20th century.

“In New Orleans I felt a freedom. I could catch my breath here.”

Tennessee Williams
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02/09/2024 01:25 pm GMT

2. Truman Capote

Truman Capote
Truman Capote was a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and actor

Truman Capote, born in New Orleans, had a fruitful career. His unique writing style often encompassed lengthy dialogue, which helps readers understand each character better and digest their thoughts in detail.

Capote’s extensive literary work includes novels, short stories, non-fiction, journalism, and screenwriting. His talents garnered him major awards in film and writing, including the O. Henry Award, the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award, and the Handel Medallion.

Capote is best known for his novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which is, at its core, a story about finding the true meaning of life. Another popular piece is his non-fiction novel In Cold Blood, which is about the effects of a brutal crime on the perpetrators and the victims. It was made into a film twice, with the latter version starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote.

To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make.”

Truman Capote
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02/09/2024 11:46 am GMT

3. Anne Rice

Anne Rice
Anne Rice wrote her first novel in only five weeks

Who can forget Anne Rice and her vampire and supernatural creature? A fun fact: The settings of her horror stories were actually her houses in NOLA. Where? In the Garden District and St. Elizabeth, New Orleans.

Rice’s achievements are remarkable. Her first novel, Interview with the Vampire, earned many accolades. Today, it remains one of her most notable novels. This success made her continue the vampire universe. Queen of the Damned is a novel chosen for the main selection of the Literary Guild of America in 1988. It has successfully made the screens and also has a comic adaptation.

This massive success has won her a Bram Stoker Award and the title of World Horror Grandmaster. Rice’s work has sold a whopping 150 million copies. You might also be interested in our guide on the best authors from Ohio.

Obsession led me to write. It’s been that way with every book I’ve ever written. I become completely consumed by a theme, by characters, by a desire to meet a challenge.

Anne Rice
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02/08/2024 10:36 pm GMT

4. Ernest Gaines

Ernest Gaines
Ernest Gaines received the 2012 National Medal of Arts

Ernest Gaines was a Literary Excellence recipient and significantly influenced many African-American writers. Why? Because Gains represented and increased their exposure. Gaines also earned the National Books Critics Circle Award, the Sidney Lanier Prize for Southern Literature, and many more accolades.

Gaines was inspired by his birth on a plantation in Louisiana. Though fictional, his tales are based on his experiences. His acclaimed works include The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and A Lesson Before Dying. Both became movies, were well-received by readers and viewers, and won countless Emmy Awards for their outstanding production.

“I believe that the writer should tell a story. I believe in plot. I believe in creating characters and suspense.

Ernest Gaines
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02/09/2024 01:26 pm GMT

5. John Kennedy Toole

John Kennedy Toole
John Kennedy Toole had been a consistent academic achiever since childhood

John Kennedy Toole had a difficult life as a writer and was plagued with rejections for his work. He was a high achiever in academia and an innovative linguist, but sadly, he suffered from depression and took his own life in 1969 at the age of 31.

However, there is much conjecture about the factors contributing to his paranoia and depression other than literary rejection.

Toole’s first novel, A Confederacy of Dunces saw publication in 1980. The novel reached its milestone a year later, with 1.5 million copies sold. As a result, it won the Pulitzer Prize and has become a cult classic. The protagonist, Ignatius J. Reilly, has a bronze statue. You can find it on Canal Street, New Orleans. In 2015, the novel turned into a play and reached the theater. You might also be interested in our guide on the best authors from Florida.

“Leaving New Orleans also frightened me considerably. Outside of the city limits the heart of darkness, the true wasteland begins.”

John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces
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02/09/2024 01:26 pm GMT

6. Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin
Three generations of independent women raised Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin was a feminist author and short-story writer of realistic fiction. Her stories are observations of the lives of those who surrounded her, often based on women’s experiences during the late 19th century.

After moving to New Orleans, she explored the cultures of Lousiana Creole and Cajun. Here, she got the inspiration for her famous work, The Awakening. It was deemed a controversial novel for its interracial marriage and was ahead of its time.

The Awakening is her legacy — the pioneer of feminist literature, Chopin’s work has earned her a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame. In 2012, a commemorative iron bust of Chopin was placed at Writer’s Corner in St. Louis.

“The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings.

Kate Chopin, The Awakening
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02/09/2024 01:26 pm GMT

7. Lillian Hellman

Lillian Hellman
Lilli Hellman’s political stand made her a controversial figure

Lillian Hellman was yet another controversial author, this time for her leftist political beliefs. Yet the critics did not stop her from making great achievements on Broadway.

Hellman had continued success as a playwright and screenwriter. She was a two-time recipient of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play of the Year and received the Gold Medal for Drama from the Academy of Arts and Letters for Distinguished Achievement in the Theatre.

Her stories usually touched on controversial themes. Children’s Hour, her most famous play, explores homosexuality and prejudice. She is also known for her memoir trilogy Vol. 1, An Unfinished Business — a story of her journey. This work became a part of her literary legacy.

“If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don’t listen to writers talking about writing or themselves.”

Lillian Hellman
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02/09/2024 01:26 pm GMT

8. F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald is perhaps best known for The Great Gatsby

Many compare F. Scott Fitzgerald and Mark Twain, sparking debate on who wrote the best American novel. But what makes F. Scott Fitzgerald a part of this list despite not being born in New Orleans? Fitzgerald went to a New Orleans boarding house. There, he got his inspiration for the stories in his short-story collection, Tales of Jazz Age.

His debate-worthy novel, The Great Gatsby, did not achieve easy success. Sadly, it only became well-known after his death. It eventually reached many readers for its resonating story. When it became a film, The Great Gatsby gained multiple awards, including BAFTA, AACTA, and Academy Awards. It was not only for its excellent production and star-studded cast. It was also of Fitzgerald’s genius.

“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
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02/09/2024 12:26 am GMT

9. James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke
For one of his novels, James Lee Burke experienced 111 rejections

Many lucky-starter authors who got their first novel boost often have continued success. James Lee Burke wasn’t one of them. Yes, he was a lucky starter as his first novel, Half of Paradise, was a New York bestselling. But, the second novel faced a setback — it was on hold for over nine years. Although that did not deter Burke.

Burke is a New York Times bestselling author for his crime novels. His bestselling collection is the Dave Robicheaux Series. It’s a story set in Detective Dave’s New Orleans French Quarter home. Readers get to unravel a mystery homicide. The catch? It’s a homicide the protagonist “might” be responsible for. This series (Neon Rain, Heaven Prisoners, and Black Cherry Blues) is Burke’s most notable work.

“It’s a sad burden, being one of the good guys.

Jame” Lee Burke, Neon Rain
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02/08/2024 10:57 am GMT

10. Walker Percy

Walker Percy
Walker Percy worked in the family’s independent bookstore

Walker Percy drew inspiration from his roots, faith, and desire to find meaning in life. It became his literary legacy that influenced many Southern authors. As a novelist and essayist, Percy introduced a new theme to explore. This earned him a historical marker on the Mississippi Writers Train.

Percy has published more non-fiction works than novels. This is because he focuses on semiotics and existentialism philosophy.

His most famous debut novel, The Moviegoer, is the story of a successful businessman. This character has it all but still feels alienated. This work is now an American classic, even earning the National Book Award. It captured many readers. Much like the protagonist, many people question the reason for their existence.

You can get all A’s and still flunk life.

Walker Percy
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02/09/2024 01:37 pm GMT

11. George Washington Cable

George Washington Cable
George Washington Cable was “The First Modern Southern Writer.”

George Washington Cable was referred to as a realism novelist for his portrayals of the Creole life. After losing his wealth, he had to work for a living. He also had to teach himself French to support the Southern cause during the American Civil War.

These experiences honed Cable’s writing. After much practice, he applied to the Times-Picayune as a journalist. He finally became an established writer. He is best known for his first novel, The Grandissimes: A Story of Creole Life. This also became his all-time best work.

“Everybody knows the Lord loveth a cheerful giver.”

George Washington Cable
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02/09/2024 01:26 pm GMT

12. Frances Parkinson Keyes

Frances Parkinson Keyes
Frances Parkinson Keyes didn’t get into a formal college

Frances Parkinson Keyes was a novelist, journalist, editor, memoirist, and biographer. She was also a bestselling and prolific author.

As the wife of a U.S. politician, she traveled to many places — until they settled in the French Quarter of NOLA. A known general owned the place during the American Civil War, P.G.T. Beauregard.

The Beauregard-Keyes house became a museum for Keyes items, complete with book collections.

Keyes settled in Louisiana and Mississippi. These places also became the set of her many novels. Her most famous mystery novel is Dinner at Antione’s.

Taking the way that opens, even if it seems hardly more than a footpath, not infrequently leads to the highways of heart’s desire, if not to fame and fortune.”

Frances Parkinson Keyes
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02/09/2024 01:36 pm GMT

13. William Faulkner

William Faulkner
William Faulkner won the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature

William Faulkner was an active militant during World War I. After his service, he settled in the French Quarter of New Orleans. There, he wrote his poetry and prose. Interestingly, Faulkner’s former house is now a bookstore of classic and local books. Its name? The Faulkner House Books. It also served as the HQ of the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society.

Faulker’s writing style was often compared to Hemingway and Fitzgerald. His first novel, Soldiers’ Pay, was often noted to have close similarities. This made him create a new upgraded identity through experimentation style. He’s remembered for his novels The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying.

It’s not when you realize that nothing can help you — religion, pride, anything — it’s when you realize that you don’t need any aid.

William Faulker, The Sound and the Fury

Author

  • Maria Caballero is a freelance writer who has been writing since high school. She believes that to be a writer doesn't only refer to excellent syntax and semantics but also knowing how to weave words together to communicate to any reader effectively.