He was an American author and journalist who became one of the first authors to become famous and wealthy from his fiction alone. He was born John Griffith Chaney on January 12th, 1876 in San Francisco, California to Flora Wellman, a music teacher and spiritualist, and William Chaney, an attorney, and pioneer in the field of astrology. He grew up in a working-class family and found various jobs as a teen to keep busy. He also spent a lot of time in the library reading travel books and novels. After a treacherous voyage on a ship when he was only 17, He was encouraged to write his story and enter it into a contest. He won first prize.