Carson McCullers (February 19, 1917 – September 29, 1967) was an American writer. She wrote novels, short stories, and two plays, as well as essays and some poetry. Her first novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter explores the spiritual isolation of misfits and outcasts of the South. Her other novels have similar themes and are all set in the South.
She was born Lula Carson Smith in Columbus, Georgia in 1917. Her mother was the granddaughter of a plantation owner and Confederate war hero. Her father, similar to Wilbur Kelly in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, was a watchmaker and jeweler of French Huguenot extraction. From the age of ten she took piano lessons, and at the age of 15 she received a typewriter from her father.
She graduated from Columbus High School. In September 1934 at age 17 she left home on a steamship from Savannah, Georgia, planning to study piano at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, but never attended the school, having lost the money set aside for her tuition. McCullers worked in menial jobs and studied creative writing under Texas writer Dorothy Scarborough at night classes at Columbia University and with Sylvia Chatfield Bates at Washington Square College of New York University. She decided to become a writer and published in 1936 an autobiographical piece, Wunderkind, a piece her course teacher Miss Bates much admired, in Story magazine. It depicted a musical prodigy's failure and adolescent insecurity and also appears in The Ballad of the Sad Cafe collection.