Who Is Danielle Steel?
Danielle Steel published her first novel, Going Home, in 1973. By the end of the decade she found an audience receptive to her brand of romance and drama, with titles like The Promise, Kaleidoscope, Heartbeat and Sisters going on to become best sellers. Steel has also penned a poetry book, several children's series and song lyrics for an album.
Danielle Fernandes Dominique Schuelein-Steel was born on August 14, 1947, New York City. She was the only child of John Schulein-Steel, scion of the German Löwenbräu beer family, and Norma da Câmara Stone dos Reis, daughter of a Portuguese diplomat, who divorced when Danielle was eight years old.
Splitting her time between France and New York, Steel was exposed to the dramas of high society at an early age, but otherwise weathered a largely lonely childhood. She threw herself into her books and developed a love for fashion, determining she would pursue that path for a career.
After graduating from New York’s Lycáe Français academy at age 15, Steel attended the Parsons School of Design and NYU. However, she endured a series of health scares, including a tumor that required an ovary to be removed, and dropped out of college before graduating.
Fluent in both English and French, Steel initially found work as a translator, before joining a New York City advertising agency, Supergirls, in 1968. It was during this time that a client named John Mack Carter, then the editor of Ladies’ Home Journal, suggested that she try her hand as an author. Steel took his advice, though she went on to write copy for the Grey Advertising Agency in San Francisco in the early 1970s, as it would take several years until she could support herself by penning novels.
Steel's first novel, Going Home, was published in 1973. Several follow-up manuscripts were rejected, but she was back in print with Passion's Promise (a.k.a. Golden Moments) in 1977, and with the rapid-fire sales of The Promise in 1978, her literary career was up and running.
Through popular works like A Perfect Stranger (1983), Kaleidoscope (1987), Zoya (1988), Heartbeat (1991) and The Gift (1994), Steel established a definitive style, her novels often centered around strong, glamorous women who overcome major obstacles en route to love and fulfillment. While at times dismissed by critics as "formulaic," the author continues to crack the best-seller lists through a prolific output that sees her finish six books per year; recent titles include The Apartment (2016), Past Perfect (2017) and Fall From Grace (2018).
Steel has also published a book of poetry, 1984's Love: Poems, and the Max and Martha and Freddie children's series. Her nonfiction titles include A Gift of Hope: Helping the Homeless (2012) and Pure Joy: The Dogs We Love (2013).
Music, Art and Fashion
With more than 100 books already under her belt, Steel teamed with a group of French composers to try her hand as a lyricist. Her 10-track Love Notes by Danielle Steel, released in November 2013, features songs in both English and French.
Steel ran a contemporary art gallery in San Francisco for four years, and continues to seek new pieces for her homes. A devoted fashionista, she also regularly attends haute couture shows.
Book Sales and Records
According to her website, Steel has written more than 189 books, her works published in 43 languages across 69 countries for a total 650 million copies sold worldwide. Additionally, the Guinness Book of World Records gave her an entry for having at least one book on the New York Times best-seller list for 390 consecutive weeks.
Steel has been married five times. Her first wedding, to wealthy French-American banker Claude-Eric Lazard, came when she was just 18; they were separated by the early 1970s and divorced in 1974.
Husband No. 2, Danny Zugelder, was in prison for robbery when she met him in 1972, and back behind bars when they married and divorced later in the decade. No. 3, Bill Toth, also had his troubles with the law, as he was unable to free himself from a longstanding addiction to heroin.
Steel found a better fit for her social circles with her wedding to shipping executive John Traina in 1981, though that marriage also met its demise in 1998. Shortly afterward she marched down the aisle for the final time with venture capitalist Tom Perkins; reports surfaced that they had separated the following year, with the divorce finalized in 2002.
Following her marriage to Claude-Eric Lazard, Steel had her first daughter, Beatrix, at age 19. Twelve years later she had son Nick with Bill Toth. John Traina adopted both children upon marrying Steel, and they went on to have kids Maxx, Trevor, Todd, Samantha, Victoria, Vanessa and Zara together.
After battling bipolar disorder for much of his life, Steel's son, Nick, committed suicide in 1997, at age 19. Steel subsequently penned His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina (1998), and has called it her most personally meaningful book.
More than 20 of Steel's novels, including Crossings (1982), Once in a Lifetime (1983), No Greater Love (1991) and Safe Harbour (2003), have been adapted into television movies. Jewels, which aired in two parts months after its 1992 publication, garnered two Golden Globe nominations, for Best Limited Series/TV Movie and for Anthony Andrews' performance as Best Actor.
Foundations and Honors
In 1998, after the tragic death of her son, Steel launched the Nick Traina Foundation to assist organizations in the areas of mental illness, child abuse and suicide prevention. Shortly afterward she followed with another foundation, Yo! Angel!, which provided food and other supplies to San Francisco's homeless population.
Steel has been decorated by the French government as an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters and Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Stateside, the prolific author was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2009.
Steel has homes in San Francisco and Paris, though she also spends time in New York and Los Angeles with her children. Her 55-room San Francisco mansion is the former home of Adolph Spreckels, whose family founded a successful sugar company, and is known for a 30-foot surrounding hedge designed to keep out prying eyes. Her Paris apartment, reportedly previously owned by Prince, boasts an extensive display of taxidermy specimens, including a giraffe in the foyer.
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