From California’s John Steinbeck to Maine’s Stephen King, here are the most famous authors from every state.
First, we looked coast to coast to find the most famous book set in every state. Now we're hitting the books to discover the most famous author from every state.
Not all the choices were cut and dry. To qualify for this list, the famed authors had to be born in their respective states, but not necessarily live out their years there.
We considered the authors' fame in terms of ubiquity, acclaim, and financial success — and awarded bonus points if the author showed state pride by setting their works there.
Melissa Stanger contributed reporting on a previous version of this post.
ALABAMA: Harper Lee
Known for: “To Kill a Mockingbird“
Harper Lee was born and raised in Monroeville, the inspiration for the fictional town of Maycomb in her classic novel. The Monroe County Courthouse, where Lee watched her father practice law as a child, currently operates as a museum.
The University of Alabama alumna lived in Monroeville, just a short drive from the Mockingbird Grill and Radley's Fountain Grille, until her death in 2016.
ALASKA: Sidney Huntington
Alaskan elder Sidney Huntington recounts his adventures, tragedies, and ultimate success in this dramatic autobiography, co-written with Jim Rearden.
Huntington's greatest contribution to his home state was his 20 years of service on the Board of Games, a government department whose mission is to conserve and develop Alaska's wildlife resources.
ARIZONA: Jeannette Walls
Known for: “The Glass Castle“
In her memoir, Jeannette Walls examines her struggles in her youth to overcome poverty and become self-sufficient. Her family moved like nomads across the Southwest, but the first place she remembers living is a small trailer park in Arizona.
A veteran of “writing what she knows,” Walls also published a biography of her grandmother, an iron-willed Arizona cattle rancher, titled “Half Broke Horses.”
ARKANSAS: John Grisham
Known for: “A Time to Kill“
Born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, this former lawyer is best known for his legal thrillers. But in 2001, he paid tribute to his upbringing on a farm in the coming-of-age story, “A Painted House.”
There are more than 275 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, and nine of his novels have been turned into films.
CALIFORNIA: John Steinbeck
Known for: “The Grapes of Wrath“
California's most treasured author, John Steinbeck captured the beauty and (at times) unforgiving nature of the Golden State in his novels “The Grapes of Wrath,” “East of Eden,” “Cannery Row,” and “Tortilla Flat.” The Salinas native attended Stanford University.
His childhood home now houses a restaurant and gift shop.
COLORADO: Ken Kesey
Known for: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest“
Considered a founding father of the counter-culture movement of the 1960s, Ken Kesey was born in La Junta, Colorado, to dairy farmers. His works promoted drug use as a path to individual liberation and bridged the beatnik and hippy generations.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” and “Sometimes a Great Notion” were both set in Oregon, where he was raised.
CONNECTICUT: Harriet Beecher Stowe
Known for: “Uncle Tom's Cabin“
The influential abolitionist writer Harriet Beecher Stowe grew up in Litchfield, Connecticut.
In her later years, she returned to Hartford, where she wrote some of her best works beyond “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” including “The American Woman's Home” and “Poganuc People.” She also helped establish the Hartford Art School, which later became the University of Hartford.
DELAWARE: Christopher Castellani
Known for: “A Kiss from Maddalena“
Christopher Castellani is a proud product of Wilmington's Little Italy neighborhood. His father's journey emigrating from Italy and pursuing the American Dream on the East Coast inspired the events in Castellani's trilogy.
The protagonist, a young woman who faces the challenges of a 1950s immigrant, learns that the city of Wilmington will be enough for her small family.
FLORIDA: Carl Hiaasen
Known for: “Hoot“
Carl Hiaasen is a New York Times best-selling author who has mastered both the mystery thriller and children's books genres. He graduated from the University of Florida and has written for The Miami Herald since he was 23 years old. His column still regularly appears in the opinion section.
His most popular books, including “Hoot,” “Flush,” “Tourist Season,” “Skin Tight,” “Strip Tease,” and “Skinny Dip,” take place in Florida.
GEORGIA: Flannery O'Connor
Known for: “A Good Man is Hard to Find, and Other Stories“
Flannery O'Connor shuttled between Savannah and Milledgeville, Georgia, as a child. When she was diagnosed with lupus in her 20s, she returned to Andalusia, the family's farm. She spent her remaining years writing two novels and dozens of short stories, known for their grotesque characters, regional settings, and low humor.
The University of Georgia Press created the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction in her honor.
HAWAII: Armine Von Tempski
Known for: “Born in Paradise“
Armine Von Tempski grew up on a cattle ranch on the slopes of Haleakalā, a massive volcano that forms most of Maui, and shared the sights and natural wonders of the islands in her memoir and book-turned-film, “Hula.”
She once described her career ambitions to The Honolulu Advertiser: “The desire grew within me to write a literature of Hawaii that was authentic, to picturize the life as I, a child of the Isles, knew it.”
IDAHO: Vardis Fisher
Known for: “Children of God“
A child of the frontier, Vardis Fisher was born in Annis, Idaho. He wrote a guide to the state and a 12-part series, “Testament of Man,” in a cabin overlooking the Thousand Springs area.
Fisher's gritty account of trappers in the fur trade era, “Mountain Men,” was made into a 1972 movie starring Robert Redford, titled “Jeremiah Johnson.”
ILLINOIS: Ernest Hemingway
Known for: “The Old Man and the Sea“
Ernest Hemingway found his passion for writing in the upscale Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, where he was born. In high school, he wrote for the school's newspaper and yearbook. After graduation, he left Illinois to report for The Kansas City Star.
The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park operates a museum in his childhood home.
INDIANA: Kurt Vonnegut
Known for: “Slaughterhouse-Five“
Many of Kurt Vonnegut's works use his birthplace of Indianapolis, Indiana, as a symbol of American values, or contain at least one character from Indy.
In 1986, during a visit to North Central High School, he said, “All my jokes are Indianapolis. All my attitudes are Indianapolis. My adenoids are Indianapolis. If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business. What people like about me is Indianapolis.”
IOWA: Bill Bryson
Known for: “A Short History of Nearly Everything“
Before travel and history writer Bill Bryson shot to fame in the UK, where he currently lives, he was Des Moines' hometown boy. He attended Drake University for two years and wrote about his 1950s Middle America upbringing in his memoir, “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.”
Former President Herbert Hoover, who was also born in Iowa, features prominently in Bryson's book, “One Summer.”
KANSAS: William Inge
Known for: “Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff“
Best known for his Academy Award-winning screenplay, “Splendor in the Grass,” William Inge channeled his Kansas pride into his two books. The University of Kansas at Lawrence alum set his novels in the fictional town of Freedom, a play on his hometown of Independence.
Editor's Note: Like many of the Midwestern states, Kansas did not have an obvious pick for this list. We went with Inge, a playwright by trade, because of his superior state pride.
KENTUCKY: Hunter S. Thompson
Known for: “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas“
Hunter S. Thompson, a Louisville, Kentucky, native, wrote almost a dozen books and is credited as the founder of gonzo journalism, a style of first-person reporting.
He shot to fame with the seminal sports article “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” Thompson pitched the Louisville-based story to “Scanlan's Monthly” just 72 hours before the race, and quickly found himself immersed in the crowd's lewd celebrations.
LOUISIANA: Anne Rice
Known for: “Interview with the Vampire“
Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Anne Rice brings the city to life in her Gothic fiction. The French Quarter provides a setting for “Interview with the Vampire,” and her house in the Garden District serves as the fictional home of her characters in the “Lives of the Mayfair Witches” series.
It's rumored that Rice purchased a tomb at the St. Louis Cemetery in New Orleans, where her vampire character goes to brood, for her eventual use.
MAINE: Stephen King
Known for: “The Shining“
Stephen King is the quintessential Maine author. He was born in Portland, graduated from the University of Maine at Orono, and still lives in Bangor. His red Victorian home, surrounded by a black, wrought-iron fence decorated with cobwebs, is hard to miss.
King's fictional Maine topography provides a backdrop for many of his novels, including “Carrie,” “It,” “The Dead Zone,” “Insomnia,” “Salem's Lot,” and others.
MARYLAND: Nora Roberts
Known for: “The Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy“
Born in Silver Springs, Maryland, romance novelist Nora Roberts still lives in the same Boonsboro home she moved into as a newly wed teenager. In 2011, her family owned eight properties in the town, including the Turn the Page Bookstore where she hosts frequent book signings, and Inn BoonsBoro, the bed-and-breakfast setting for her trilogy of the same name.
Editor's Note: Baltimore native Tom Clancy, who passed away in 2013, was also a contender for the state of Maryland.
MASSACHUSETTS: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Known for: “The Scarlet Letter“
Nathaniel Hawthorne's “The Scarlet Letter,” considered one of the great American novels, explores sin, guilt, and dignity in 17th-century Puritan Salem. Coincidentally, the Salem native is the descendant of a judge who ruled in the Salem witch trials.
Editor's Note: Being that “The Scarlet Letter” is a literary staple read by almost every high school student, Hawthorne was our pick for the state of Massachusetts. Other Massachusetts-born contenders included Sylvia Plath, Jack Kerouac, Dr. Seuss, and Henry David Thoreau.
MICHIGAN: Jeffrey Eugenides
Known for: “The Virgin Suicides“
Jeffrey Eugenides found inspiration in the economic turmoil of Detroit, Michigan, for his first novel, “The Virgin Suicides.” The Motor City native told NPR, “That whole feeling of growing up in Detroit, in a city losing population, and in perpetual crisis really was the mood that made me write 'The Virgin Suicides' in the first place.”
His Pulitzer Prize-winning “Middlesex” is also set in Michigan.
MINNESOTA: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Known for: “The Great Gatsby“
F. Scott Fitzgerald was born and raised on a tree-lined street in St. Paul's Ramsey Hill neighborhood. In his writing, Fitzgerald described himself coming from small means, when in reality, the family lived in an upscale apartment.
Fitzgerald's first writing to appear in print was a detective story in St. Paul Academy's newspaper when he was age 13.
MISSISSIPPI: William Faulkner
Known for: “The Sound and the Fury“
William Faulkner was raised, made famous, and buried in Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner loved Lafayette county so deeply that he created a fictitious county based on it.
He told the Paris Review, “I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about, and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.”
MISSOURI: Mark Twain
Known for: “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn“
Mark Twain began his writing career as a typesetter at the Western Union paper, in his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri.
His boyhood home has been transformed into a museum, which aims to develop students' passion for reading and adventure through community initiatives.
MONTANA: Maile Meloy
Known for: “Liars and Saints“
Born and raised in Helena, Montana, Maile Meloy has written books for kids and adults. The Harvard College graduate is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times, and has been dubbed “the first great American realist of the 21st century” in a review of her work by The Boston Globe.
Aside from her writing, Meloy is also credited as a founding member of the band The Decemberists.
NEBRASKA: Nicholas Sparks
Known for: “A Walk to Remember“
Nicholas Sparks was born in Omaha, Nebraska, to a business professor and an optometrist's assistant. He wrote his first novel the summer after his freshman year at Notre Dame and, though the novel went unpublished, it was the beginning of a blockbuster writing career.
At age 24, Sparks wrote his first best-seller, “The Notebook,” which spent over a year on the bestseller's list. He writes a new book nearly every year, many of which have been made into films.
NEVADA: Nevada Barr
Known for: “Track of the Cat” (Anna Pigeon book series)
Nevada Barr (whose name earned her points in making this list) essentially grew up in an airport in the Sierras, where her parents worked as pilots and mechanics.
The Yerington, Nevada-born author wove her experiences working in national parks as a park ranger into a series of mystery novels that take place there.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Dan Brown
Known for: “The Da Vinci Code“
Dan Brown grew up on the campus of Phillips Exeter Academy, where his father taught math and where Brown eventually attended. Brown doubted religion from a young age, which led to themes of conspiracy and and religious skepticism that are found in many of his books.
He wrote three books before “Da Vinci,” which put him on the map as a best-selling author.
Editor's Note: Novelist John Irving, author of “The World According To Garp” and “The Cider House Rules” is also from New Hampshire.
NEW JERSEY: George R.R. Martin
Known for: “A Song of Ice and Fire”
While the books that inspired “Game of Thrones” take place in far-off, mythical lands, George R.R. Martin grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey, a peninsula located just south of Jersey City.
“My world was a very small world. For many years I stared out of our living-room window at the lights of Staten Island. To me, those lights of Staten Island were like Shangri-La, and Singapore, and Shanghai,” Martin told Rolling Stone.
NEW MEXICO: Rudolfo Anaya
Known for: “Bless Me, Ultima“
Rudolfo Anaya came from a family of cattle workers and sheepherders in the tiny town of Pastura.
Overall he had a happy, active life of hunting, fishing, and exploring the plains of New Mexico, but many of his less-positive experiences — like questioning his place in the world as a Latino, or a diving accident that almost killed him at age 16 — inspired his canonical Chicano literature.
NEW YORK: Herman Melville
Known for: “Moby Dick“
Herman Melville, born in New York City in 1819, lost his father at a young age. It forced him to take on as much work as he could to help support his family.
The author of the White Whale Tale had a fascination with whales ever since he was a boy, when he heard the story of the whale ship Essex, which sunk when it was attacked by a whale.
NORTH CAROLINA: Thomas Wolfe
Known for: “Look Homeward, Angel“
Born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, Thomas Wolfe was recognized at a young age for his genius and enrolled at UNC Chapel Hill at age 15. After completing studies in playwriting at Harvard, Wolfe went on to write “Look Homeward, Angel,” a work of fiction based on his life in Asheville.
While the book was a huge success, it was met with a ton of controversy back home, as more than 200 characters were based on Asheville residents, including his own family. The outcry was so bad that it led to Wolfe exiling himself from Asheville for almost a decade.
NORTH DAKOTA: Louis L'Amour
Known for: “The Walking Drum“
Born Louis Dearborn LaMoore in 1908, the North Dakota native grew up in a medium-sized farm community to a veterinarian father. L'Amour heard tales of the Great American Frontier from his uncles and his grandfather, who lived through the Civil and Indian wars.
OHIO: Sherwood Anderson
Known for: “Winesburg, Ohio“
Sherwood Anderson was born to a poor family in Camden, Ohio, but spent his most productive and lucrative years as a writer in Clyde, where he set many of his stories.
OKLAHOMA: Ralph Ellison
Known for: “Invisible Man“
Before his writing career took off, Ellison left his home of Oklahoma City to pursue music at the Tuskegee Institute. It wasn't until Langston Hughes introduced Ellison to Richard Wright that Ellison was encouraged to take up writing.
OREGON: Beverly Cleary
Known for: “Ramona Quimby, Age 8“
Beverly Cleary's hometown in Oregon was so small, it didn't have a library. Still, she developed a love of books early on. Once she got to school, the librarians suggested she write children's books for a living, and Cleary made that her ultimate goal.
She published her first book, “Henry Huggins,” in 1950, and developed many more beloved characters throughout her career.
PENNSYLVANIA: James Michener
Known for: “Tales of the South Pacific“
Like his Pulitzer-winning work, many of Michener's books are set in places he traveled to during his Navy service, or places he lived throughout his career.
RHODE ISLAND: Cormac McCarthy
Known for: “No Country for Old Men“
While many of Cormac McCarthy's works are set in the South, the Southern Gothic-genre writer was born in Providence, Rhode Island. McCarthy's family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, when he was a child.
McCarthy was 32 when his first book, “The Orchard Keeper,” was published, and he continues to publish novels on a regular basis, even at the age of 83.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Peggy Parish
Known for: “Amelia Bedelia“
Peggy Parish spent years teaching elementary school before bringing her beloved children's book character, Ameia Bedelia, to life. The “Amelia Bedelia” books — about a housekeeper who interprets all of her employers' instructions literally — have sold more than 35 million copies since it was first published over 50 years ago.
Parish grew up and attended school in South Carolina, but taught for many years in New York before returning to her home state.
SOUTH DAKOTA: Adam Johnson
Known for: “Parasites Like Us“
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Adam Johnson grew up hearing tales of wilderness survival from the men in his family. He recalls their survivalist skills and the obstacles they faced in his back-in-time debut novel, “Parasites Like Us.”
Editor's Note: South Dakota was another difficult state to fill. Other authors, like Laura Ingalls Wilder, called South Dakota home at one time or another, but were not born there.
TENNESSEE: Alex Haley
Known for: “Roots”
Raised in Henning, Tennessee, Alex Haley is best known for his works depicting the struggles of African Americans. He said he based his groundbreaking novel, “Roots” on his own family's history, though Haley was accused of plagiarizing parts of the Pulitzer-winning book.
His first book, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” is based on a series of interviews he conducted with the civil rights leader for Playboy.
TEXAS: Katherine Anne Porter
Known for: “Flowering Judas and Other Stories“
Saying Katherine Anne Porter lived a hard life would be an understatement. Her mother died when she was two. Porter married young and suffered domestic violence during her first and later marriages. She almost died, twice, from two different pandemics, and endured poverty and infertility.
Still, Porter persisted. Her hardship is evident in her writing, which often explores human fallibility.
UTAH: Thomas Savage
Known for: “The Corner of Rife and Pacific“
Though Thomas Savage is best known for his Montana-set novels, the Wild West author was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. He followed his mother to a Montana ranch when she remarried, and there gained inspiration for many of the books he later wrote.
His last book before his death, “The Corner of Rife and Pacific,” follows the joys and sorrows of a family in a small, fictional town.
VERMONT: Ralph Nading Hill
Known for: “Contrary Country: A Chronicle of Vermont“
Ralph Nading Hill was born and raised in Burlington, Vermont, and remained in the Northeast for college, where he attended Dartmouth. An authority on the Green Mountain state, Hill spent many years as the editor of Vermont Life magazine, during which time he also authored a number of Vermont-centric books, including “Contrary Country.”
Editor's Note: It was surprisingly difficult to track down Vermont-born authors. Poet Robert Frost wrote in and about the state, but was born in San Francisco; and Rudyard Kipling wrote “The Jungle Book” while living in Brattleboro, but was born in India.
VIRGINIA: David Baldacci
Known for: “The Camel Club“
David Baldacci describes himself as a “lifelong Virginian.” He got his undergraduate degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and attended law school at the University of Virginia.
He practiced law in DC for many years before making a career as legal thriller writer. Almost every one of his books has made the New York Times bestseller list, the majority of them in the No. 1 spot.
WASHINGTON: David Guterson
David Guterson was a high school English teacher when he wrote his most popular book, “Snow Falling on Cedars.” The novel examines the undercurrents of prejudice and fear in a community of fishermen and strawberry farmers in Puget Sound, Washington, where Guterson also lived.
He captured the mood and landscapes of the area as only a local could. It sold four million copies.
WEST VIRGINIA: Pearl S. Buck
Known for: “The Good Earth“
Pearl S. Buck, a Nobel Prize winner, was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia. She spent the majority of her life in China with her missionary parents.
Much of her work is based on the clash and contrast between Eastern and Western cultures, including her best seller “The Good Earth,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.
WISCONSIN: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Known for: “Little House in the Big Woods“
Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose family moved from state to state for much of her life, was born in the “big woods” of Wisconsin, where her children's classic was eventually set.
Other books from her “Little House” series were also based on the places she'd lived, including Kansas, South Dakota, and Missouri. All but one of her books were nominated for the prestigious Newbery Medal for exceptional children's literature.
WYOMING: Patricia MacLachlan
Known for: “Sarah, Plain and Tall“
Born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Patricia MacLachlan still carries around a bit of prairie dirt with her wherever she goes to remind herself of where she came from.
Awarded for her beloved children's books, which tell stories of home and family, MacLachlan has says she's always been fascinated by children's attachment to certain places.