I just read the comments on my blog, and I have tears in my eyes. You are so kind to me, so generous, so full of praise, so compassionate and caring about the things I do or that happen to me. Rather than follow some other topic, I wanted to respond to all of you today, to thank you for the lovely messages you write to me, and to tell you what it means to me. I write the stories that come to my head and heart, some inspired by my own experiences, some not, I write and edit them for at least two years, and then they get published and go out in the world to you, and I have no way of knowing what they mean to you, until I see comments like the ones you leave on this blog. So it is so heart-warming to me to know that you love the books, and enjoy them, and they are either helpful or meaningful to you. Thank you with all my heart for your comments. Truly, you warm my heart, and make the long, long hours of hard work late into so many nights worthwhile!!
A few of you asked direct questions. I felt terrible about the lady who got a very old paperback book of mine which was defectively printed and had about 20 missing pages, and wanted to know what to do about it. Since it’s one of my early books, there’s not much anyone can do about it now, although it’s good for us to know. Hopefully, you can find another copy of the book somewhere. I’m REALLY sorry that happened!!!
Someone else asked if I work from an outline. Yes, I do. I get an idea, I scribble notes about it on a big notepad. The theme of the book starts to come clear, and then I start outlining the characters, who would be in that story, what would they bring to it, why are they in that situation, what is their background. I need to ‘know’ who their parents and grandparents are, how they grew up, to make them react the way they do and who they are. I outline all the characters in the book, and then I spend hours figuring out the right names for them. I have a whole shelf of “What to Name the Baby” books. And then when I really ‘know’ my characters, I outline the story, broadly, and then finally chapter by chapter. The more detailed the outline is, the clearer the story will be to me when I actually write the book. If I’m too vague, it slows me down later on, so I have to figure it out. I discuss it once or twice with my editor, and she makes comments about the direction I’m going. Sometimes I agree with her, and sometimes I don’t, and she’s very, very good at what she does. I always have some kind of message I want to share with you, in addition to the story. For instance, in my newest hardcover “Winners”, each of the people involved in the story have had some very bad situation in their lives: a divorce, breast cancer, a failed business, the loss of a loved one/spouse, as well as the heroine’s accident who becomes paralyzed from the waist down at the beginning of the book. Her life was ski racing, as a member of the US Olympic ski team. She is 17 years old in the book. In fighting to get back her life after the accident, her courage inspires each of the other people in the book, and helps them fight the good fight against what has happened to them. We all face those challenges in different ways. We EACH have our challenges, the loss of a job, or someone we love, a failed marriage, a failed business, loss of a career (getting laid off), a sick child, a discouraging time, financial worries, the loss of a friend, family troubles, or kids acting out and out of line, our spouse or partner having an affair. Stuff happens, as they say. This book is about courage, and fighting against the odds to get our lives back in a good place again. It’s never easy, but in almost every situation, we can turn it around in some way, maybe not in the way we originally thought, but sometimes even better than before. Anyway, once I get the story outlined in detail, and I know my characters really well, and the ‘message’ of the book is clear to me, then the outline is done, and I can start the book. The outline can take me a month if the story is very clear to me, or up to a year. And the book takes about 2 years, allowing time for about 5 or 6 re-writes on it. It’s a long process, which is why I work on several books at once. So that’s how I do it.
Have all the stories in the books happened to me? No. Some have. Some haven’t. And sometimes I take an experience that did happen to me, and use the emotions of that and apply them to another situation. I have to write about things I care about, so I can make the story real. We all deal with different variations of the themes I write about, the challenges, the heartbreaks, the disappointments, the hopes, the joys. Things happen in all of our lives. I’ve been married, I have a lot of children, I’ve been divorced, I lost a son, as most of you know. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to have life experiences and learn from them. We all have. Our humanity and what has happened to us is the bond we share. The emotions in a book have to be real to me. And I try to write about things I know. And even about places I know. When I don’t know a place, an industry, or a time in history, I research it very, very carefully, and I have a wonderful researcher I have worked with for my whole career, so she teaches me about the places, industries, and periods of history I don’t know. The whole process is a labor of love.
And for those of you who want me to sign your books, I wish I could. But it would be too complicated to send them all back to people all over the world. I get fan mail through the website of my publisher at daniellesteel.com and if you ask for a signed photograph, I can send you that, autographed to whoever you want. I’m sorry I can’t sign your books!!
You have all proven to me that why I did this website originally was a good idea. Because I do so few interviews, and like keeping a low profile, I felt that I had so little opportunity to ‘chat’ and connect with you on a more personal level, to share my thoughts, and personal experiences with you. It is so wonderful to know that you enjoy sharing that with me, that you enjoy this blog, and that what I write is meaningful to you. thank you for your wonderful comments, for your kindness to me, and for being part of my life. I can’t begin to tell you how much it means to me, and how much YOU mean to me. I am sooooo grateful for you!!!