Steel work

Steel work

It might surprise you to learn that Danielle Steel - who has written 167 books and will publish six more in 2018 - spends between two and three years on each title. "Sometimes I just sit and stare into space and think about a book, or a twist in a book, or the kernel of an idea, and I follow the thought for a while and see where it goes, and try to envision it," she explains. "I know when an idea is right for me when it just clicks, and I can tell in my gut it's 'the one'." But she doesn't immediately dive into a manuscript. "I make notes for a while before I start work on the outline. The notes are usually more about the characters. I need to know the characters really well before I start - who they are, how they think, how they feel, what has happened to them, how they grew up."

Steel says the idea for her new book, 'Fall From Grace' - which enters the hardcover fiction list at No 2 - was sparked by real-life conversations. "I've heard touching, poignant stories about women who were treated abominably by their jealous adult stepchildren after their husband's death, and I became intrigued with the idea of what happens to a woman who has lived in a golden cocoon and loses everything," she says. "What's left? Who does she become? How does she survive? Who is she without all the trappings and protection? We all become somewhat spoiled when things are easy. Stripped of everything, who are we?"

After all these years, Steel continues to use the same 1946 Olympia typewriter she bought used when working on her first book. "I am utterly, totally and faithfully in love with my typewriter," she says. "I think I paid $20 for it. Excellent investment! And by now, we're old friends."

She adds, "I work for 20 hours at a stretch, glued to my desk, sometimes 24 hours straight. Thirty-six hours once, when I just couldn't leave the story." But the famously glamorous author - who attends the Paris fashion shows and frequently writes about her love of couture on her blog - rejects designer trappings when she works.

"When I'm writing, it's 'schlubby' all the way," she says. "My favourite writing costumes are threadbare old cashmere nightgowns, so comfy to write in. 'Dressed up' would be an old sweatshirt and jeans. It's like taking a long road trip, you have to be comfortable to sit in one place for that long. My long hair is lumped in an elastic - it's comfy, comfy, comfy all the way. When I'm finished working, it's like coming back from a camping trip: I'm a mess! But the accomplishment feels great."

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