August 14th – Danielle Steel

I try to give people hope. Even though life is bleak, there’s hope out there.

Danielle Steel

Danielle Steel has written nearly 200 books that have sold over 800 million copies. She is the fourth best-selling fiction writer of all time. 

Steel was born Danielle Fernandes Dominique Schuelein-Steel in New York on August 14, 1947. Her father was a German-Jewish immigrant and her mother the daughter of a Portuguese diplomat. Steel spent much of her childhood in France where she observed the habits of the rich and famous at her parents dinner parties. After her parents divorced when she was eight years old, she was raised primarily by her father. 

As a child she wrote stories and composed poetry, but ended up studying fashion design at Parsons School of Design and New York University. She married French-American banker Claude-Eric Lazard in 1965 at the age of 18, and continued to go to New York University. While studying at NYU she completed her first manuscript at the age of 19 (unpublished). She worked for a public-relations agency where she was encouraged to pursue writing. Her and her husband moved to San Francisco where she worked as a copywriter for Grey Advertising. 

When she was 25 her first novel, Going Home (1972) was published. The heroine of the novel was a divorced single mother, and Steel herself divorced in 1974. While still married she met Danny Zugelder, who was incarcerated. After his parole he moved in with Steel, but returned to prison in 1974. In 1975 she married him in the prison canteen. They divorced in 1978 but her novels published during this time, Passion’s Promise (1977)and Now and Forever (1978), provided breakthrough success for her career. She married her third husband, William George Toth, just after her divorce was finalized. She was already pregnant with his child. Her fourth novel, The Promise, published in 1978 was very successful as well. Toth and Steel divorced in 1981, and Steel married vinter John Traina the same year, and they had an additional five children during the 1980s. It was at this time Steel really hit her stride writing and became very successful. 

In 1997 her son Nicholas committed suicide. To honor his memory Steel write the nonfiction book His Bright Light about his life and death. Proceeds from the book go to the Nick Traina Foundation which funds organizations dedicated to treating mental illness. 

Steel and Traina divorced in 1998 and she married Silicon Valley financier Thomas James Perkins. The couple divorced in 2002 – Steel writing The Klone and I inspired by a joke between her and Perkins, and Perkins dedicating his novel Sex and the Single Zillionaire to Steel. 

She still produces several books a year, often juggling multiple products at a time. Despite not receiving much critical acclaim for her novels, they are all best-sellers. She is said to spend 20-30 hour stretches at her 1946 type-writer she bought second hand for $20. It is also reported that she does not drink coffee. 

Lesson from Steel:

When I first had my daughter and I was struggling to maintain a writing schedule as a working single mom – I looked to Danielle Steel. She was first married and a mother at the age of 18. She went on to marry four more times, and had a total of 9 children. 9. During the time she was raising these children Steel reportedly wrote at night, often getting about four hours of sleep. From her well-off upbringing and first marriage, Steel probably did not have to work or write for a living. She could have settled into a comfortable life and just taken what she was given. But she didn’t. She hustled. Like a boss. Like more than a boss actually – we should come up with a new term to describe her superhuman dedication to writing and prolific output, while having lots of children and not drinking coffee – cause boss simply doesn’t cover the level of hustle she brings.

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