She was born into privilege, her father a descendant of the owners of the Lowenbrau beer dynasty while her mother was the daughter of a diplomat. Having spent much of her childhood in France, she was said to have been included in her parents’ many dinner parties which gave her the ideal opportunity to observe the habits of the rich and famous. She’s been married five times, twice to convicts, and with her incredible success as one of America’s most beloved writers, she’s had the good fortune to call home the historic Spreckels mansion, a San Francisco landmark, where she’s entertained the crème de la crème of San Francisco’s high society while wearing couture gowns and collecting pay checks once reported by People magazine to be somewhere around the 825 million dollar a year.
By all accounts, her illustrious life could be the fodder for one of her glittery romance novels but in reality, Danielle Fernandes Dominique Schuelein-Steel, better known as the romance novelist Danielle Steel, is a prolific writer who produces at least one book a year, every year, in a career that has spanned over four decades. She has dedication, drive and incredible discipline and is literally a one-woman writing powerhouse whose books are read and adored by millions while blasted with equal contempt by her critics. In other words, Danielle Steel is undeniably in a league all her own.
According to the online reference source Wikipedia, Steel is currently the best-selling author alive and the fourth best-selling author of all time, with over 800 million copies of her books sold. Described in 2011 by the Wall Street Journal as a “couture-clad San Francisco writer and society gal with a handful of husbands and a soccer-team’s worth of kids”, Steel’s books have often been described by her detractors as formulaic and with more than 80 books published, few can argue that she’s gotten the book writing formula down to an exact science.
Steel has been a “near-permanent fixture” on the New York Times hardcover and paperback bestseller lists. In 1989, she was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having a book on the New York Times Bestseller List for the most consecutive weeks of any author at that time. And in case you’re wondering how many weeks that equated to, try 381 consecutive weeks. She’s admitted to sleeping as little as four hours a night so she could be with her children during the day when they were growing up. Aided by the same researcher she’s had since the 1970’s, Steel has the innate ability to juggle several projects as once, including outlining one book, writing another while editing yet another.
Steel does not write sequels to her books in order to avoid comparisons to her previous novels and some have criticized her for making her books overly detailed and explicitly telling the story instead of showing it which has alienated some readers. Twenty-two of her books have been adapted for television, including two adaptations that have been nominated for Golden Globes. Her earlier books were released with initial print runs of one million copies but it has been said that by 2004, her publisher had decreased the initial print runs to 650,000 copies – yet her fan base continues to remain faithful and strong.
Interviewed by David Kaufman for the article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal in May of 2011, Steel gave the following interesting insights into her life:
"The French don’t really exercise and I’m originally French. I used to ride horses and ice skate as a child but I would rather die than exercise today. I smoke, I drink and while I have a trainer, I avoid her by all means necessary. Happy movies and chick flicks are what I like to see. Notting Hill is a favorite, as is The Holiday with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz. People might say I have the worst taste in movies, but I want a happy ending. If I wanted to stay home and cry, I could just look at the world around me. Writing is a solitary endeavour, but not a lonely one. When you write, your world is populated by the characters you invent and you feel those people filling your life."
Steel summed up her interview by saying that “lust is temporary, romance can be nice, but love is the most important thing of all because without love, lust and romance will always be short-lived.” What better way to sum up the life philosophy of one of America’s most beloved romance novelists who is truly in a league all her own?