The fashion world is the setting for the latest book by bestselling novelist Danielle Steel, a prolific author who continues to produce several books a year.
"First Sight," which appeared in mid-July, is the story of Timmie O'Neill, who has created a ready-to-wear fashion empire after a difficult childhood and a past she wants to forget.
Steel, 65, who has written nearly 100 adult novels and a number of children's books, spoke to Reuters about the book, her career and how she managed to write while raising nine children:
What was the inspiration for "First Sight"?
I'm always looking to write about different things. I had never written in depth about a woman involved with a married man, so that started the idea, and then I got interested in writing about the challenges of working in the ready-to-wear fashion industry. I particularly like writing about people who overcome difficulties or tragedies and turn their lives around. After a terrible childhood, Timmie O"Neill makes something wonderful of her life. All of that appealed to me, and it inspires people to think that others can do that.
What appealed to you about Timmie?
What interested me about Timmie was her overcoming a painful childhood and tragedy as an adult and, in spite of that, she creates a remarkable life for herself. One can't help but admire that.
How have your characters evolved to match the times? Would somebody like Timmie have been accepted at the start of your career?
Somebody like Timmie would undoubtedly have captivated readers at the start of my career, but when I first published at 19, I wouldn't have had the insight to write about her and understand her motivations well myself.
My books have moved forward with the times in that relationships are different now, and some of the challenges people face are different in a world of more liberated women, relationships harder to find - as witnessed by the proliferation of computer dating - and harder to maintain for a multitude of reasons. Family units are more unusual with a wide variety of options. It is common for single people to adopt children now and raise them on their own, or have children out of wedlock, which wasn't nearly as common or acceptable 20 years ago. And women are under enormous pressure now, with big jobs and enormous stress they didn't have 20 or 30 years ago. These are challenging times, in many ways, for families, men and women, and individuals, in a far more uncertain world.
How have you changed as a writer?
Life teaches all of us new views and perspectives, if we are willing to learn the lessons life doles out to us. My approach to writing is still the same: Put bottom in chair, and keep it there for 20 or 22 hours straight, and keep at it until you drop, to get the best out of oneself, and get the story and all its nuances on the page. I have always worked very hard, and still do, perhaps harder as I strive to get better and write better with each book. Fortunately the challenge of telling the story, and doing the very best I can, is still fun to me.
You've been quite prolific. How did you manage to accomplish so much?
I don't sleep a lot and never did. Fortunately I don't need a lot of sleep or I could never have had nine children and written as many books. I'm also willing to sacrifice my personal time for my children and my work. I rarely, if ever, have lunch with friends and don't go out socially when I can be with my kids or am writing.
Advice for aspiring writers?
My best advice for young writers, or anyone in any field, or just in life, is perseverance. Keep at what you're doing, try not to get discouraged, keep going no matter what. I always remind young writers that my first book got published fairly easily, but no one bought the next five books I wrote.
I kept writing, and from my seventh book on, the books started to sell, slowly at first, but with a forward momentum. If you really want to be a writer, you have to harden yourself to rejection, keep trying to improve, learn your craft and keep writing. As in anything, persistence wins the prize.