#3. Shel Silverstein Worked for Playboy and Wrote Perverted Songs
What We Know Him For:
Shel Silverstein is best known for his children's book The Giving Tree, a story about an apple tree with serious self-esteem issues that has been interpreted as a metaphor for parenthood, or saving the environment, or loving Jesus.
Some even say it's about trees.
Silverstein also wrote a bunch of other children's books and novels, often self-inserting himself as a character called "Uncle Shelby." In short, he sounds like someone you'd feel comfortable leaving your kids with for a couple of hours while you go to the monster truck derby.
But In Real Life ...
Or maybe not. Shel Silverstein also worked for Playboy, drawing the exact type of cartoons you'd expect to find between the sticky pages of the legendary porno mag. And it wasn't just a "young writer desperate to make money" thing, either: He kept it up for about 40 years.
That's him, with the beard and half-chub.
Like his children's books, Silverstein liked to "insert" himself into his Playboy comics. One popular series showed the children's author traveling the world, getting into various drug- and boob-related misunderstandings along the way.
Scholastic turned down his proposal for The Giving Prostitute.
And that's not all. Silverstein was also a prolific poet and songwriter, and one of his favorite topics (and sources of inspiration) was pot, with titles like The Great Smoke-Off and I Got Stoned And Missed It (which was basically Because I Got High before its time). Sometimes his various interests collided in his cartoons:
Mickey always gets chatty on Acapulco Gold.
One of Silverstein's most famous songs is the playful A Boy Named Sue, made into a hit by Johnny Cash. Less known is his sequel/retelling The Father of a Boy Named Sue, in which the eponymous characters of both songs (that is, father and girl-named son) end up sleeping together. Yeah, it's hard to see "Uncle Shelby" making it as a children's author if he'd started out today, considering parents and publishers are less likely to pick up a delightful children's book after they Google the writer and find him on YouTube singing about getting high and having incestuous sex.
#2. Anne Rice Was a Straight-Laced Christian
What We Know Her For:
While she's most famous for her 1976 novel Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice's long writing career has spanned topics that range from sexy vampires and sexy witches to sexy werewolves and sexy mummies. The most famous book in her vampire series was adapted into a well-received Brad Pitt-Tom Cruise movie in 1994.
Sometimes you just have to take a moment to remember this happened.
And that's her tame stuff: Rice's work also branches out into hardcore BDSM erotica like the Sleeping Beauty trilogy, in which the Prince wakes up the Princess "not with a simple kiss, but with a fervent deflowering" ... and things just get wronger from there. The books start off with your average garden-variety spankings and gang rape, and then quickly descend into what would happen if you collected a year's worth of horrifying unintentional Google Image search results and then wrote a chapter about each one.
But In Real Life ...
We're all so jaded about artists secretly being perverts that it's genuinely shocking when the opposite happens. Rice's non-writing life is less "BDSM vampire fantasy" and more "that Sunday school teacher aunt who you have to hide most of your Facebook posts from."
Some Goth fangirl somewhere spent hours Photoshopping this to make it look like her hands are burning ...
Rice became a born-again Christian in 1998 (and a born-again non-Christian in 2010, but she's still religious). But even before that, she was always more of a prude than her own writing: When she actually met the people who were heavily into her bondage novels, she was so creeped out that she had to discontinue the Sleeping Beauty series.
So what freaky stuff is she really into, then? Monogamy, mostly. Rice fell in love with her future husband during high school and, according to her autobiography, she never had the desire to sleep with anyone except a future spouse. The two married when she was 20 and lived in happy monogamy until his death 41 years later -- according to Rice, he's the only man she has ever been with. This isn't something she's unhappy about: In interviews, Rice has described long-term married sex as "something priceless."
"The only thing more satisfying is shamelessly cashing in on 50 Shades of Grey."
#1. Charles Dickens Liked to Watch Corpses
Hulton Arhive/Getty Images
What We Know Him For:
Charles Dickens gave us classics like Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, and the phrase "What the Dickens?" (even if Shakespeare said it first). In his most famous stories, the world is ultimately a fair place where all good men are eventually rewarded, and where ghosts are magical beings who spend their time teaching valuable life lessons to old, miserable ducks.
OK, so we've only seen the Disney version.
But In Real Life ...
Aside from advocating love for our fellow man, Chuck enjoyed something else: staring at corpses. Yep, the venerable Charles Dickens was very much into visiting the Paris public morgue and looking at dead bodies for the sheer hell of it. And he wouldn't just see a body, get his rocks off then leave -- no, he had to stare at it and contemplate all the little aspects that went into the vacant expression of a deceased person.
He didn't do this to ruminate about the existence of the human soul, or to lament the tragic passing of another victim of society's injustices: he just liked looking at dead folk, in the same way that other people like looking at trains or exotic dancers. We can't even say he was researching some book, because he never really touched the subject in his fiction; his work was all about living life.
"If I had to describe my life's work in one word it'd be 'YOLO.'"
In reality, not even Dickens knew what this morbid obsession was about. "I am dragged by an invisible force into the Morgue," he once wrote, possibly sporting a major boner. One time he forced his friend Maclise to come with him to the morgue and then called him a pussy when the corpses made him upset (but with fancier words). Another time he witnessed an execution by guillotine in Rome and stuck around to examine the body, describing the "apparent annihilation of the neck." We'd have to check, but we're reasonably sure that this sentence doesn't appear anywhere in A Christmas Carol.
Speaking of which, his addiction to death was such that he even went to the morgue on Christmas day. Think about it: That's how Charles Dickens spent his holidays, gawking at rotting corpses.
"To-day? Why, it's Christmas day."
"Excellent! A new batch of suicides!"
Related Reading: While Kurt Vonnegut probably couldn't take Kilgore Trout in a fist-fight, some authors are actually much more badass than their creations. Ian Mallory would've cut King Arthur's throat. We wouldn't want to put Mallory up against Hans Fallada though- he wrote three books mocking the Nazis while locked in a Nazi prison. And did you know Lewis Carroll loved naked pictures of little girls? He did. And Alice in Wonderland will never look the same again.