Danielle Fernandes Dominique Schuelein-Steel, born on August 14, 1947, in New York City, has earned her place as one of the most successful authors in the world. Best known for her romance novels, Steel's work has captivated readers with its exploration of human relationships, family dynamics, and the complexities of love. With over 800 million copies of her books sold, she is not only the best-selling living author but also one of the best-selling fiction authors of all time. As of 2021, she has written an astonishing 190 books, including more than 140 novels.
Steel's early life provided her with unique experiences that would later shape her writing. She was born to a German father, John Schuelein-Steel, a descendant of Löwenbräu beer owners, and a Portuguese mother, Norma da Camara Stone dos Reis, the daughter of a Portuguese diplomat. Her diverse heritage and upbringing, which included spending much of her childhood in France, provided her with a deep well of cultural influences to draw upon in her writing.
Her parents' divorce when she was just eight years old had a lasting impact on her. Raised primarily by her father, she developed a strong bond with him and rarely saw her mother. Her parents' dinner parties introduced her to the world of the wealthy and famous, allowing her to observe their habits and lives, an experience that would later inform her portrayal of affluent families in her novels.
Steel's interest in writing was cultivated from a young age. She started writing stories as a child and later explored poetry during her late teens. While she initially considered becoming a nun, her academic journey led her to graduate from the Lycée Français de New York in 1965. She pursued studies in literature design and fashion design, first at Parsons School of Design and later at New York University.
During her time at New York University, Steel began her writing career, completing her first manuscript at the age of 19. Her break into the writing world was spurred by John Mack Carter, the editor of Ladies' Home Journal. Impressed by her freelance articles, he encouraged her to write a book. She heeded his advice and produced her first novel, "Going Home," which was published in 1973. This novel foreshadowed many of the themes that would become her hallmark, including a focus on family issues and human relationships.
Steel's relationship with her second husband had a significant influence on her early career. "Passion's Promise" and "Now and Forever," both inspired by their relationship, marked the turning point in her career, leading to her prominence in San Francisco high society after the success of her fourth novel, "The Promise."
Danielle Steel's career reached new heights beginning in 1981 when she became a near-permanent fixture on The New York Times bestsellers lists. In fact, in 1989, she earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for having a book on the New York Times Bestseller List for a record-breaking 381 consecutive weeks. Her remarkable work ethic is evident, as each book takes approximately two and a half years to complete. She is known for juggling multiple projects simultaneously, often researching one book while outlining another, and writing and editing yet others.
Throughout her career, Steel expanded her horizons to encompass non-fiction works, with "Having a Baby" published in 1984, including her personal experience of suffering through miscarriage. In the same year, she published "Love: Poems," exploring her talent in the realm of poetry. Furthermore, she ventured into children's fiction, penning a series of books for young readers that addressed real-life problems such as adjusting to a new baby, a new school, or coping with the loss of a loved one.
Despite her reputation for writing "formulaic" novels, Steel has never shied away from tackling challenging subjects such as incest, suicide, divorce, war, and even the Holocaust. Her writing has evolved over the years, with her later heroines portrayed as stronger and more authoritative characters who are willing to move on to new lives if they don't receive the respect and attention they deserve.
Danielle Steel's personal life has been marked by a series of marriages and relationships. Her numerous marriages, divorces, and the challenges she has faced, including her fear of flying, are reflected in her novels. The ups and downs of her personal life have influenced her characters and their struggles, making her work deeply personal and relatable to readers.
Beyond her writing career, Steel has been involved in philanthropic activities. Her son, Nick Traina, tragically passed away by suicide in 1997, and in his memory, she founded the Nick Traina Foundation, dedicated to funding organisations that help individuals with mental health issues. She has lobbied for children's mental health issues and has used her influence to raise awareness of these critical matters.
In 2002, she founded the Yo Angel Foundation to assist the homeless, reflecting her commitment to addressing important social issues.
Danielle Steel's career, characterised by her remarkable output and unrelenting dedication to storytelling, has left an indelible mark on the literary world. Her novels have been translated into 43 languages and can be found in 69 countries worldwide. Despite receiving mixed critical acclaim, her novels have maintained a dedicated and ever-growing readership. Her stories continue to captivate readers with their exploration of complex human relationships and enduring themes.
While Steel may not always receive the critical praise that some other authors do, her ability to connect with readers on a deeply emotional level is undeniable. Her work serves as a testament to the power of storytelling and the enduring popularity of romance literature.
Danielle Steel, born to a diverse background and raised in a world of privilege, has taken her life experiences and turned them into a literary empire. Her dedication to storytelling, coupled with her prolific output and exploration of complex human relationships, has solidified her place in the annals of literary history. Despite the naysayers and mixed critical reviews, her work continues to find a home in the hearts of readers worldwide. Danielle Steel's legacy stands as a testament to the enduring power of literature to connect, inspire, and provide solace to countless individuals.