Danielle Steel — Author of 179 Books and Mom of 9 Kids — Exposes Burnout As a Myth In New Interview



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July 25, 2024 at 7:5PM UTC

You know the work of Danielle Steel even if you’ve never read one of her books. Propped up on the display shelves of many an airport bookstore, a single punchy word (“Legacy;” “Betrayal;” “Vanished;” “Secrets”) generally suffices as the title, though a few exceptions to this rule exist (see 2013’s epic “Until the End of Time”). Steel’s name, in a typeface that’s remained consistent since 1978’s “The Promise,” accounts for nearly half of the book jacket. In the space that remains, a shadowy silhouette often looms.

If this sounds at all formulaic — well, no duh it is. But it’s a formula that works for 71-year-old Steel, who’s to-date personally written 179 books — and she isn’t planning to slow down any time soon. The two most prolific years in her almost five-decade publishing career, in fact, have been 2019 and 2017, with each year seeing seven new books by her released.

In a new interview with Glamour Magazine that’s since gone viral, Steel spelled out exactly how she’s become not the paperback queen the world needs, but the paperback queen we deserve. Here are seven of our most memorable takeaways.

1. She works 20-22 hour workdays.

Sometimes, as she told Glamour, she'll work a full 24 hours at her desk when she "feels the crunch" (this happens twice a month, at least).

"Dead or alive, rain or shine, I get to my desk and I do my work," she said. "Sometimes I'll finish a book in the morning, and by the end of the day, I've started another project."

Why wait? Waiting is for sloths.

2. She essentially doesn't sleep.

With a disdain for unconsciousness that rivals the likes of Elon Musk, Steel doesn't see much of a point in sleeping. Being able to work requires being awake, after all. 

"I don't get to bed until I'm so tired I could sleep on the floor," she told Glamour. "If I have four hours, it's really a good night for me."

When asked if she plans to adopt an even marginally slower lifestyle anytime soon, her response was swift: "I want to die face-first in my typewriter."

3. She doesn't drink coffee.

Sleep is for sissies. Coffee is for sissies. Danielle Steel is not a sissy.

Having given up caffeine 25 years ago, the author says she instead gets her fuel from her morning slice of dry toast, iced decaf coffee, and bittersweet chocolate bars in the afternoon. All other "productivity hacks" are noise. Steel has no time for noise. 

4. She works on a desk that is... well, it's certainly on brand. 

Her work is her legacy. Like her 2010 novel of the same name.

5. She has NINE. CHILDREN.

Seven of these children are biological. She's also been married five times; her second husband she met in prison while interviewing his fellow inmate. The pair married in the prison canteen.

As she told Glamour, at least two of her five husbands "did not like that I worked," which wasn't her first exposure to this value system. Growing up in Europe, she added, "it was not considered polite for a woman to be working." This, while raising her kids, she worked primarily at night as her family slept: "It was kind of this invisible thing that I did." 

Let's sit with this statement for a moment. Every single one of Steel's novels — allow us to repeat, each and every one — has been a best seller. And for a significant chunk of these novels, the work that went into them happened in the actual dark with the intention of being invisible. Steel is stealthy, much like the titular characters in 1997's "The Ghost" or 2017's "The Mistress."

6. She calls burning out a "millennial affliction."

"They expect to have a nice time," she said of millennials, adding that one of her sons even told her he firmly logs off at a certain hour (what nerve!). “To me your twenties and a good part of your thirties are about working hard so that you have a better quality of life later on. I mean, I never expected that quality of life at 25. I had three jobs at the same time, and after work I wrote. Now it's a promise that it's all going to be fun."

7. She has little patience for Jeff Bezos

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is often heralded for his work ethic; to this, Steel wonders, what work ethic? After being personally invited by Bezos to tour Amazon's headquarters, Steel was not, shall we say, impressed.

 "There's a flood of bright young people there," she told Glamour. "But they're telling them, 'This is a family, this is fun, you can bring your dog to work.' I left with flea bites on my legs!"

We hear you, Steel. Kids these days!

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