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Stephen King, Clancy, and Other Pop Authors Living The High Life

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While lazily flipping through a paperback this summer, don't forget what all those vampires, wizards, admirals, cryptologists, and Mainers you love so well are really doing: making bank for the people that first put pen to paper. These five authors have turned popular paperback into a lucrative art form, raking in multi-millions at each turn. Some are so successful they've handed the whole writing thing off to underlings, with little impact on the bottom line. So what does it feel like to command a pop-lit dynasty? Maybe some of their primo properties will shed some light on the trials and tribulations behind being a celebrity author.

Tales of high-tech derring-do on the high seas are Tom Clancy's specialty, so is it any surprise that he decided to live on the waterfront? Actually, yes. For one, he was said to have paid $12.6M for a 12,000-square-foot penthouse (above) at the height of the recession, in a new building with 80 percent vacancy in Baltimore. In a city where luxe condos top out at $800 per square foot, Clancy plunked down more than $1,000 per. No matter, though, as ghost writers and video games have turned the Clancy brand into a self-perpetuating money machine. French game developer Ubisoft paid the ultimate armchair admiral $100M for the rights to use his name in their marketing.

? With the Twilight phenomenon sweeping the nation, it's no surprise that author Stephanie Meyer has chosen to stick close to home. While the film stars were breaking leases to dodge paparazzi in Bel Air, Meyer was home in Cave Creek, Ariz., tending to her brood. But even in this dusty stopover on the way to the Grand Canyon, she found it necessary to build a fence around her modest four-bedroom house. Guess you never can tell when a Twi-hard might turn Die Hard.

? Visitors to Bangor, Me., often marvel at Stephen King's modest—and macabre—red Victorian, but that's just half his real estate story. In addition to the Maine home with wrought iron gargoyles, King enjoys a beachcomber lifestyle on Casey Key, off Sarasota, Fla. King purchased this beachfront property in 2001 for an undisclosed sum, but it's now worth an estimated $10M. That's just a drop in the bucket for the former schoolteacher, who took in roughly $34M last year alone.

? Keeping it real for New England is Dan Brown. After the Da Vinci Code became a worldwide phenomenon—and source of controversy—Brown struggled to keep out of the spotlight, even in the sleepy seaside town of Rye, N.H., just a few miles from his childhood home. In 2005, after he banked almost $80M and attracted the ire of many Catholics, he was granted town permission to build a six-foot fence around his $1.6M property to keep out looky-loos and crazies. A few years later, he found a better solution, and moved to a stealthier location nearby.

? Meanwhile, across the pond, Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling has been on an unabashed buying spree. Back in 2001, she picked up this stately country home, known as Killiechassie House, for close to $4M. Since then, as her wealth has grown exponentially—she's now the world's first billionaire author—her multimillion-dollar acquisitions have occupied less and less of her precious time. In January 2010, Rowling splashed out for another $4M Scottish mansion after seeing just two of its 31 rooms. In fact, she offered the owner an additional $600K to vacate quickly so she could hold a holiday party at the house.
· Tom Clancy's $12.6M Condo Buy Boosts Baltimore Market [WSJ Developments]
· Twilight life of Stephenie Meyer, the world's biggest author [Daily Mail]
· Stephanie Meyer's House [Virtual Globetrotting]
· The Up-And-Down Real Estate Fortunes of Favorite Child Stars [Curbed National]
· #75 Tom Clancy [Forbes]
· Stephen King's Sarasota, Florida Home [Celebrity Detective]
· Closing the book [Boston Globe]
· Hogwarts Hideaway for Potter Author [Scotsman]
· JK Rowling Purchases 17th Century Mansion in Edinburgh [Elite Choice]