"I started writing stories as a child." -- Danielle Steel
Danielle Fernande Dominique Schuelein-Steel (born August 14, 1947, New York City) better known as Danielle Steel, is an American romantic novelist and author of mainstream dramas.
Best known for drama novels, Steel has sold more than 580 million copies of her books (as of 2005) worldwide and is the eighth best selling writer of all time. Her novels have been on the New York Times bestseller list for over 390 consecutive weeks and 22 have been adapted for television.
"A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it.""A book begins with an image or character or situation that I care about deeply.""At the moment, I'm enjoying John Grisham quite a bit.""I am endlessly busy, bringing up five young kids, and trying to keep up with the three older ones. I still spend most of my life driving car pools.""I completed my first novel when I was 19 years old.""I decided I would never do interviews again.""I did it at night because I loved it. I never did it to make money, as a job. I just did it because I had to.""I have these wonderful homes, and no one to share them with.""I like summer. I like warmer weather and long days. I'm one of those silly people who still enjoy lying in the sun - my children are horrified!""I move between San Francisco and Paris... I have a wonderful beach house in California.""I studied literature design and fashion design.""I think I'm very real as a person, and that comes across in my work.""I try to give people hope. Even though life is bleak, there's hope out there.""I try to write about the stuff that torments us all.""I wrote because I needed to and wanted to. It never occurred to me that I'd become famous.""I'm astonished by my success.""I've shut myself inside these walls, and I'm going to be a very lonely old lady if I'm not careful.""If you see the magic in a fairy tale, you can face the future.""In my late teenage years, I developed a real passion for it, and wrote a lot of poetry.""It's difficult to talk to people... I walk into a room and I'm Danielle Steel, and whatever I say is going to be taken apart.""It's hard being visible, so I've made myself invisible.""My early reviews were so bad that I decided I didn't want to read them again.""My kids are more precious to me than anything. I'm with them all day, and I write all night.""People are much more inclined to believe and say bad things about you if you're famous.""Sometimes, if you aren't sure about something, you have to just jump off the bridge and grow wings on your way down.""The records of adopted children are sealed in California. That seal is considered inviolable... The judge ruled that, because I was famous, he didn't have the same rights as other kids.""The usual way - through a long series of rejections, revising my manuscripts, and kept trying again and again. Finally I was fortunate enough to find a good agent."
Her parents were John Schulein-Steel, a descendant of the founders of Löwenbräu beer, and Norma da Câmara Stone dos Reis, the daughter of a Portuguese diplomat. Steel spent much of her early childhood in France, where from an early age she was included in her parents' dinner parties, giving her an opportunity to observe the habits and lives of the wealthy and famous. Her parents divorced when she was seven, however, and she was raised primarily in New York City and Europe by her father, rarely seeing her mother.
Steel started writing stories as a child, and by her late teens had begun writing poetry. A graduate of the Lycée Français de New York, class of 1963, she studied literature design and fashion design, first at Parsons School of Design in 1963 and then at New York University from 1963—1967.
In 1965, when she was only 18, Steel married banker Claude-Eric Lazard. While a young wife, and still attending New York University, Steel began writing, completing her first manuscript the following year, when she was nineteen. After the birth of their daughter, Beatrix, in 1968,Steel worked for a public relations agency in New York called Supergirls for several years. A magazine client was highly impressed with her free lance articles and encouraged her to focus on writing and suggested she write a book, which she did. She later moved to San Francisco, and worked for Grey Advertising, as a copywriter.
After many years of separation, Steel and Lazard divorced after nine years of marriage. They had one daughter, Beatrix. In 1972 her first novel, Going Home, was published. The novel contained many of the themes that her writing would become known for, including a focus on family issues and human relationships.
Steel married again, briefly with Danny Zugelder. The marriage ended quickly and Zugelder was later convicted of a series of rapes. Steel married her third husband, William Toth, and began divorce proceedings two weeks later.
Steel married for the fourth time in 1981, to vintner John Traina. Traina subsequently adopted Steel's son Nick and gave him his family name. Together they had an additional five children, Samantha (April 14, 1982), Victoria (September 5, 1983), Vanessa (December 18, 1984), Maxx (February 10, 1986) and Zara (September 26, 1987).
Coincidentally, beginning with her marriage to Traina in 1981, Steel has been a near-permanent fixture on the New York Times hardcover and paperback bestsellers 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—381 consecutive weeks at that time. Since her first book was published, every one of her novels has hit bestseller lists in paperback, and each one released in hardback has also been a hardback bestseller. During this time Steel also contributed to her first non-fiction work. Having a Baby was published in 1984 and featured a chapter by Steel about suffering through miscarriage. The same year she also published a book of poetry, Love: Poems.
Steel also ventured into children's fiction, penning a series of 10 illustrated books for young readers. These books, known as the "Max and Martha" series, aim to help children face real life problems: new baby, new school, loss of loved one, etc. In addition, Steel has authored the "Freddie" series. These 4 books address other real life situations: first night away from home, trip to the doctor, etc.
Determined to spend as much time as possible with her own children, Steel often wrote at night, making do with only four hours of sleep, so that she could be with her children during the day. Steel is a prolific author, often releasing several books per year. Each book takes 2½ years to complete, so Steel has developed an ability to juggle up to five projects at once, researching one book while outlining another, then writing and editing additional books.
In 1993 Steel sued a writer who intended to disclose in her book that her son Nick was adopted by her then-current husband John Traina, despite the fact that adoption records are sealed in California. A San Francisco judge made a highly unusual ruling allowing the seal on Nick's adoption to be overturned, although he was still a minor. The order was confirmed by a California Appellate Judge, who ruled that because Steel was famous, her son's adoption did not have the same privacy right, and the book was allowed to be published.
The son at the center of the lawsuits, Nicholas Traina, committed suicide in 1997 as a result of bipolar disorder. Traina was the lead singer of San Francisco punk bands Link 80 and Knowledge. In honor of his memory, Steel wrote the nonfiction book His Bright Light, about Nick's life and death. Proceeds of the book, which reached the New York Times NonFiction Bestseller List were used to found the Nick Traina Foundation, which Steel runs, to fund organizations dedicated to treating mental illness. To gain more recognition for children's mental illnesses, Steel has lobbied for legislation in Washington, and previously held a fundraiser every two years (known as The Star Ball) in San Francisco.
Steel married for a fifth time, to Silicon Valley financier Tom Perkins, but the marriage ended after 4 years in 2002. Steel has said that her novel The Klone and I was inspired by a private joke between herself and Perkins. In 2006, Perkins dedicated his novel Sex and the Single Zillionaire to Steel.
After years of near-constant writing, in 2003 Steel opened an art gallery in San Francisco, Steel Gallery, which showed contemporary work and exhibited the paintings and sculptures of emerging artists. The gallery subsequently closed in 2007. She continues to curate shows once or twice a year for the Andrea Schwartz Gallery in San Francisco.
In 2002, Steel was decorated by the French government as an Officier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, for her contributions to world culture.
She has additionally received:
Induction into the California Hall of Fame, December, 2009.
"Distinguished Service in Mental Health Award" (first time awarded to a non-physician) from New York Presbyterian Hospital, Department of Psychiatry and Columbia University Medical School and Cornell Medical College, May, 2009.
"Outstanding Achievement Award" for work with adolescents from Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco, May, 2003.
"Service to Youth Award" for improving the lives of mentally ill adolescents and children from the University of San Francisco Catholic Youth Organization and St. Mary's Medical Center, November, 1999.
"Outstanding Achievement Award" in Mental Health from the California Psychiatric Association
"Distinguished Service Award" from the American Psychiatric Association
In 2006 Steel reached an agreement with Elizabeth Arden to launch a new perfume, Danielle by Danielle Steel.
Steel lives in San Francisco, but also maintains a residence in France where she spends several months of each year. Despite her public image and varied pursuits, Steel is known to be shy and because of that and her desire to protect her children from the tabloids, she rarely grants interviews or public appearances. Her 55-room San Francisco home was built in 1913 as the mansion of sugar tycoon Adolph B. Spreckels.
Steel's novels have been translated into 28 languages and can be found in 47 countries across the globe. The books, often described as "formulaic," tend to involve the characters in a crisis of some sort which threatens their relationship. Many of her characters are considered over-the-top, making her books seem less realistic. The novels sometimes explore the world of the "rich and famous" and frequently deal with serious life issues, like illness, death, loss, family crises, and relationships.
Despite a reputation among critics for writing "fluff", Steel often delves into the less savory aspects of human nature, including incest, suicide, divorce, war, and even the Holocaust. As time has progressed, Steel's writing has evolved. Her later heroines tend to be stronger and more authoritative, who, if they do not receive the level of respect and attention they desire from a man, move on to a new life. In recent years Steel has also been willing to take more risks with her plots. Ransom focuses more on suspense than romance, and follows three sets of seemingly unconnected characters as their lives begin to intersect. Toxic Bachelors departs from her usual style by telling the story through the eyes of the three title characters, men who are relationship phobic and ultimately discover their true loves.
Steel has been criticized for making her books overly redundant and detailed, explicitly telling the story to readers instead of showing it to them. This sometimes has the effect of making the readers feel like they are on the outside looking in rather than living the story.
To avoid comparisons to her previous novels, Steel does not write sequels. Although many of her earliest books were released with initial print runs of 1 million copies, by 2004 her publisher had decreased the number of books initially printed to 650,000 due to the decline in people buying books. However, her fan base is still extremely strong with Steel's books selling out atop charts worldwide.
Twenty-two of her books have been adapted for television, including two that have received Golden Globe nominations. One is Jewels, the story of the survival of a woman and her children in World War II Europe, and the family's eventual rebirth as one of the greatest jewelry houses in Europe. Columbia Pictures was the first movie studio to offer for one of her novels, purchasing the rights to The Ghost in 1998. Steel also reached an agreement with New Line Home Entertainment in 2005 to sell the film rights to 30 of her novels for DVD's.