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Steel, Danielle

STEEL, Danielle

Born 14 August 1947, New York, New York.

Daughter of John and Norma Stone Schuelein-Steel; married Claude-Eric Lazard, 1967 (divorced 1975); Danny Zugelder, 1975 (divorced 1978); William Toth, 1978 (divorced); John Traina, 1981 (divorced 1997); Thomas Perkins, 1998 (sepa-rated 1999); children: five daughters, four sons (one deceased).

The life of Danielle Steel, an enormously popular author throughout the 1980s and 1990s, has developed like the plot of one of her novels. As the only child of wealthy parents, Steel was born in 1947 in New York, New York. She lived with her father after her parents divorced when she was seven but had what she describes as a lonely childhood, with most nurturing coming from relatives and servants. She spent her childhood and teenage years in Paris and New York and graduated from the Lycée Français at fourteen. She entered New York's Parsons School of Design but left soon after because of a stomach ulcer. Instead, she studied at New York University from 1963 to 1967.

Steel's first marriage began at age eighteen with a wealthy French banker, Claude-Eric Lazard. Money wasn't a problem, but Steel grew bored after several years and insisted on finding a job. A public relations firm in Manhattan hired her as vice president of public relations, where she stayed from 1968 to 1971. In 1973 she began working as a copywriter for Grey Advertising but not before writing her first novel, Going Home. Dell published it as a paperback in 1973 with moderate sales. During these years, Steel's marriage to Lazard was ending, and she more seriously turned to writing. It took five rejected novels, however, before Passion's Promise (1977) changed her fortune. Ironically, this novel's plot, featuring a socialite who falls for an ex-convict, mirrors her own experience in 1975: while visiting another inmate at a prison in Vacaville, California, Steel met and fell in love with Danny Zugelder. They were married that year inside the prison while he served a sentence for robbery and sexual assault

Another four of Steel's novels were published in the late 1970s: The Promise (1978), Now and Forever (1978), Seasons of Passion (1979), and Summer's End (1979). The Promise was her first big hit, with sales of over 2,000,000 copies. During these years in her personal life, Steel divorced her second husband and married William Toth, a recovering heroine addict. They were divorced shortly after. Not surprisingly, Steel's 1981 novel, Remembrance, is about a beautiful woman who marries a heroine addict.

Private life for Steel settled down somewhat in 1981 with her marriage to John Traina, but her writing career was just taking off. Both Steel and Traina brought two children to their marriage, and in the coming years they had an additional five. Steel spent time with her family by day but would write for hours every night while they slept. This schedule produced novels at a breakneck speed: 17 works were published between 1981 and 1989.

All told, Steel has amassed nearly four dozen bestselling novels during her career thus far, and almost two dozen of those have been adapted to made-for-TV movies. But despite her popularity among readers, critics are still not fond of Steel's somewhat cookie-cutter approach to plots, which are often not realistic, and her shallow handling of character development. Most of her books center around a glamorous, wealthy woman facing great trials and challenges. While her books do not typically conclude with a storybook ending, they often focus on the growth and personal triumph of the main character. She is credited, however, with artfully weaving romance and often history into the journey of the protagonist.

More recently, Steel has strayed from her traditional story lines. She addresses love between siblings in Kaleidoscope (1987) and No Greater Love (1991), and chooses a male lead in Fine Things (1987) and Daddy (1989). She focuses on more realistic situations in some novels: Mixed Blessings (1992) deals with issues of infertility, Accident (1994) shows how one family copes with their teenage daughter's serious car accident, and The Gift (1994) tells of a 1950s family that must deal with the loss of their daughter but welcomes an unwed mother into their home. Steel's other writing ventures include two series of books for children, which actually began as a project for her own children, a collection of her poetry written during the 1970s, and coauthorship of the nonfiction work, Having a Baby (1984).

Steel's personal life again took a rocky turn in 1994 with the publication of an unauthorized biography, the release of which she fought unsuccessfully in court. Her marriage to Traina ended within two years, in part because of the embarrassing revelations in the biography (many of which Steel denies are true). Further heartbreak struck with the suicide of Steel's 19-year-old son Nicholas, who struggled with manic depression throughout his childhood and teenage years. It was during this difficult time that she was charged with plagiarism by another popular writer, and the matter was ended with an out-of-court settlement. To assuage her pain over Nicholas, Steel wrote a book about his life and death called His Bright Light (1998). But just like the women who overcame trials in her novels, Steel's work has not been diminished by these hurdles and in fact may prove to have been enhanced by them. She has developed a winning formula that draws millions of faithful readers, and by all indications she will continue producing popular novels for years to come.

Other Works:

The Ring (1980). Loving (1980). Palomino (1981). To Love Again (1981). Love Poems: Danielle Steel (1981, abridged edition 1984). Crossings (1982). Once in a Lifetime (1982). A Perfect Stranger (1982). Changes (1983). Thurston House (1983). Full Circle (1984). Secrets (1985). Family Album (1985). Amando (1985). Wanderlust (1986). Zoya (1988). Star (1989). Martha's Best Friend (1989). Martha's New Daddy (1989). Martha's New School (1989). Max and the Baby-Sitter (1989). Max's Daddy Goes to the Hospital (1989). Max's New Baby (1989). Martha's New Puppy (1990). Max Runs Away (1990). Message from Nam (1990). Max and Grandma and Grandpa Winky (1991). Martha and Hilary and the Stranger (1991). Heartbeat (1991). Freddie's Trip (1992). Freddie's First Night Away (1992). Freddie's Accident (1992). Freddie and the Doctor (1992). Jewels (1992). Vanished (1993). Wings (1994). Five Days in Paris (1995). Lightning (1995). Malice (1996). Silent Honor (1996). The Ranch (1997). Special Delivery (1997). The Ghost (1997). The Long Road Home (1998). The Klone and I (1998). Mirror Image (1998). Bittersweet (1999).


CA Online (6 Apr. 1999). DISCovering Authors Online (7 Apr. 1999). Entertainment Weekly (20 Dec. 1996). SATA 66 (1991). Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers (1994).


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