Author Danielle Steel writes more books in a year than many novelists pen in a lifetime. How does she do it? Just plain hard work.Sandwiched somewhere between William Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss on the list of all-time best-selling authors, you’ll find Danielle Steel, who has sold more than 600 million copies of her 100-plus books in the U.S. alone. Often penning, editing or researching five books at a time and publishing three a year, Steel — an avid art collector and a mother to nine children — is apparently superhuman, not to mention adored the world over. With her latest release, Betrayal, on shelves now, American Way talked with the prolific novelist about her craft.
American Way: You’ve sold almost as many books as McDonald’s has hamburgers.
Danielle Steel: Now which is better? [Laughs] I’ve always had a laugh when people criticize me and say, “I know your formula! I know how you write your books!” They may very well know, but I don’t. I just write what comes to me. If there’s a formula at all to what I do, it’s this: [I] put my butt in my chair every single day.
AW: You don’t seem to suffer from writer’s block, but some days must be better than others, right?
DS: I compare it to slalom skiing. When everything’s going right, there’s nothing that feels better. But how many runs are like that? I have days with three flat tires. The good news is: If you write 500 pages and 85 of them are horrible, you go back and fix the 85 pages that are horrible. If you show up every day, at least you have pages.
AW: The female characters in your books today are so much stronger and more resolute than they used to be.
DS: I’m stronger today than I used to be, so it’s natural that my characters would be.
AW: Where do the ideas come from?
DS: My agent says I’m channeling, but I don’t know about that. I just call my editor every so often and say, “I’ve got an idea for a book!” And she says, “What is it?” And I say, “It’s about a woman!” And she says, “Uh, yes?” And I say, “I don’t have the rest of it yet.” So I have to find something for the woman to do. I don’t know that I’m channeling, but I am writing down the things that come to me.
AW: You’ve said that writing is also an escape for you.
DS: I had a horrible childhood, so reading was my escape when I was a little girl. Church and literature were my escape. When I turned 19, I started writing more books than I was reading. It’s still an escape, yes. And I’m never lonely.