Danielle Steel is an icon. She's written over 100 novels, and over 130 books. Her books have been made into TV movies, and she's had so many consecutive New York Times bestsellers that she's in the Guiness World Book of Records.
Now, Danielle doesn't know it, but she's been with me through much of my life. I first discovered her work when I was in sleepaway camp. We'd read her mass market paperbacks under the covers with flashlights, long after lights out. We were hooked! In junior high and high school, the obsession continued: my friends and I were never without a Danielle Steel novel. We'd carry them on top of our school books, sneaking a few pages in before class began. We'd talk about them at lunch. Reading a Danielle Steel novel was a status symbol — how many have you read and which ones?
Master storyteller Danielle Steel has not slowed down since then. In fact, she's only picked up steam. She's got two books coming out this Winter: her 107th novel, The Mistress, which is out now, and her 108th novel, Dangerous Games, which will be out in March. It was an honor, a thrill, and the culmination of a lifelong dream to get the chance to talk to Danielle Steel about her work, her life, and how she is able to publish six (you read that correctly: six!) books a year.
POPSUGAR: You don't know this, but you've been with me my entire life. I've been reading you since I was in sleepaway camp!
Danielle Steel: That's so sweet!
PS: Tell us what The Mistress, your January release, is about.
DS: It is about a young Russian girl, very beautiful, very young, who gets spotted on a Moscow street, while living a miserable factory life, by a Russian billionaire oligarch. He rescues her, and gives her a golden life, but it's a very dubious life in a dark underworld, which he keeps her away from. But, somewhere, she knows . . .
The Mistress was inspired by the fact that I spend part of the Summer in the South of France, with my children, and you see a lot of yachts. Most of the really big ones are owned by Russians. I was lying on the beach one day, looking at this boat that looked like a floating village, and I was just mesmerized, thinking about who might own it. I became intrigued and spun an entire story around it.
PS: So, tell us what Dangerous Games, your March release, is about.
DS: They're both very different books. I try to keep the books very different. Dangerous Games is a political thriller involving Washington lobbyists, and a lot of very dark people who live in a very proper world. It's very atypical for me.
PS: I love that!
DS: The two books, the only similarity they have is that there are very dark people in both of them, which I don't always write about.
PS: Two books, coming out within months of each other. That's incredible!
DS: I publish six a year now, which is very exciting. But it keeps me into my typewriter at all times! Now that my children have grown up, I'm with my typewriter 20 hours a day.
PS: Can you tell us a little more about your process?
DS: Well, I just write all the time! I'm always working. I usually work on several books at once. Each book takes anywhere from two to three years to complete, from concept to outline to final edits. I work on as many as five at a time.
DS: It's crazy. It's fun. It's very challenging. But it's really been a wonderful career. And it's allowed me to work at home, which was nice, because I have nine children. I was with them in the daytime, and writing all night.
PS: So, you're used to this work ethic, working 20 hours a day!
DS: [Laughter] Yes!
PS: Nine children. That's amazing!
DS: You know what they say: never lend your car keys to someone you gave birth to.
PS: I will remember that!
DS: I live by that. My younger one, there was a very bad patch when he was driving my cars from about 16 to 19, he's since shaped up, but back then, he'd start the sentence with: Um, Mom, you remember your car? [Laughter] If I had to remember my car, well, that was a very bad sign . . .
PS: So many of your books have been made into movies. Who would you cast in the movie version of The Mistress?
DS: I'd cast an unknown young Russian girl for the part of the mistress. There are so many actresses that I like. I just love the series Downton Abbey. And have you seen The Crown? It's great. Everyone on those shows are great.
PS: Who would you cast in the movie version of Dangerous Games?
DS: There are two great roles in that book — there's the very demure, socialite-type wife of an assassinated senator, and then there's a very bold female journalist. I like Rachel McAdams a lot.
PS: Describe yourself using only a description of your favorite pair of shoes.
DS: That would be impossible! I have a few obsessions in life, and one is shoes! I love pretty shoes, so to figure out my favorite? I couldn't. But I do have a new pair I love. I got a wonderful pair of Gucci shoes with faces on them with little pom poms for the nose. They're very fun, and I love them. I've rarely met a shoe I didn't like.
[That's exactly how we feel about Danielle Steel's books — we've rarely met one we didn't like!]
PS: If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be, and why?
DS: It would be a healing power. I'd want it for the good it would do for those you love and even those you don't know.
PS: What is the best thing anyone's ever said to you about your books?
DS: It's that they love them. But more than that, I write about the things that happen to us all. The things that are tough, the things that matter, from a loved one fighting an illness, to losing a job, being betrayed by somebody you trust, all parts of the human condition. No one is exempt from those things.
So often people tell me: you got me through this, you've really helped me. And I never realized that part of what I do is that I give people hope. By sharing an experience, or creating an experience that we all go through where the character survives — though not easily, I always say that it's victory at a price — does give people hope. That is what touches me most. When somebody says: you really made a difference. To be able to touch lives, and touch a life that you don't even know, is an extraordinary thing.
I guess in a funny way, I touch more people than I realize. A little bit of that healing power that I wish I had.
PS: Now I have to ask: what's the worst thing anyone's ever said about your books?
DS: Well, I don't have a good memory for those things. [We both laugh hysterically.]
[GREAT LIFE ADVICE FROM DANIELLE STEEL RIGHT HERE, YOU GUYS!]
DS: But the thing that always makes me laugh people who ask: Oh, are you still writing? And I feel like saying: I know that you don't read the New York Times. Yes, I am still writing, and a lot of people are aware of that fact!
PS: That blog post of yours, where you talked about this, went viral, and really made a lot of people think. Women seem to get asked that question a lot.
DS: I know. When's the last time you asked a man: Oh, are you still a doctor? It's a very demeaning question. Somebody once said to me that photography and writing don't get respect because people think that they can do it, too. So, it's like: are you still doing that thing, that hobby of yours?
It's this idea: what you do is really not important. But I think people face that in any artistic field, this idea of: oh, I could do that, if I had the time.
PS: Do you consider yourself a feminist? I thought that blog post was saying something really important about how the world sees women vs. men.
DS: The way the world sees women vs. men is a subject that really interests me. I wrote a book called Power Play, and what intrigues me is the difference in how women experience power, and how men do.
I'm a human rights person. I don't think people should be unfair to men or women.
PS: So, you've written over 100 novels. Is there one that's your favorite?
DS: The one I've just finished! [laughter.] I've written 158 books, including poetry, children's books, and nonfiction. I love what I do. I'm so lucky.
I wrote my first book at 19. The books you were reading in sleepaway camp? I probably wasn't a whole lot older than you when I wrote them! It's been a wonderful career.