Danielle Steel on How She Gave a Familiar Fairytale a New Spin

Adrian Liang on October 24, 2017

FairytaleDanielle Steel is more than a famous name—she’s a tireless author whose novels have touched the lives of millions of readers. With the release of her newest book, Fairytale, Steel once again taps into the emotions and motivations that build and break and rebuild again families and friends.

The heroine of her new novel might remind you of a fairytale character of old, but Steel gives this timeless tale her own special twist….

Amazon Book Review: Fairytale is a modern reimagining of the Cinderella tale, set at a winery in Napa. You seem to have a love for that wine-making part of the world, as well as a respect for French wines. Are you a wine connoisseur?  

Danielle Steel: Fairytale is a modern day fairytale, with current day plot twists and turns, set in the beauty of the Napa Valley. My love for the valley is unrelated to the wine industry there, since I don’t drink and never have, but it's a truly charming part of the world, and in many places looks a great deal like Italy and France. We had a family home there for many years, which my children own now, and where they spent their childhood summers and every weekend until they grew up. So the Napa Valley is interwoven with many warm family memories for me. And its peaceful beauty makes a wonderful counterpoint for some of the excitement and villains in the story.

You gave the story a twist by giving the evil stepmother, Maxine, two spoiled sons instead of two spoiled daughters. What was behind that change?

Every writer has to make a story their own. I wasn't simply retelling an old, familiar, much-told fairytale, but creating a new one, so there are evil stepbrothers instead of evil stepsisters, Ferraris instead of pumpkins that become coaches (which would you prefer?), and a funny, eccentric, clever French grandmother instead of a fairy godmother. And presto magic, a new fairytale is born.

Danielle Steel - photo by by Brigitte LacombeThe daughter of a Frenchman and an American woman, Camille considers herself half-French and half-American. You’ve spent a good part of your life in France. Do you consider yourself part French?  

My background is a very European mix. My mother was from Portugal, my father German, my first language was French, and I went to French schools all my life, until university (in the US).  I had French nationality earlier when I was younger, and I am bilingual.  I've been a translator at various times. I've spent a great part of my life in France, and live there part of the year now. So French life and culture are familiar to me, and part of my life, history, and background. And I am very grateful for my life and work in the US as well. Both countries are very important and dear to me!

If you were not a full-time writer, what would you be?

If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be either a fashion designer or interior designer, since I was trained in both and went to design school before I started writing. I have a great love of art as well, and had a contemporary art gallery for five years, which I loved! So I'd probably be involved in the arts or design in some form.

You have quite a big backlist, but are there certain titles that readers frequently tell you are the ones that made them fall in love with your books?

It always fascinates me how diverse people's tastes are. I try to keep the subjects of my books very varied, about topics that appeal to people and are meaningful to them. I also write both historical novels and present-day ones, so everyone has a favorite, for different reasons, and they are very rarely the same. People fall in love with the ones that most closely relate to their lives and the challenges they face.

You’ve also written nonfiction books about causes that are important to you. Can you tell me a little about those books?

I do occasionally write nonfiction books as well about subjects that are important to me. My first nonfiction was a book I cowrote with six other women; we were all friends, having babies at the same time. It was a book about pregnancy, with seven different points of view, and it was fun to write. My next nonfiction book was on a less happy subject but very dear to my heart, His Bright Light, the book about my son Nick's life. He suffered from bi-polar disease, and died of it, a suicide at 19. I wrote the book to honor him, and also to share with other parents, and people going through the same thing themselves or with a loved one, with the goal of encouraging them with what they face. My third nonfiction book, A Gift of Hope, was about my work with the homeless population on the streets, running an outreach team. We have two foundations: one which deals with mental illness, to honor my son, and the other with homelessness. The eleven years I spent working on the streets in the outreach team were among the experiences I cherish most, and were incredibly meaningful to me. And the fourth nonfiction book I wrote was in a lighter vein, about our family dogs. We are huge dog lovers in our family, and the book is about our dogs, and the dogs we have loved, and what I've learned about dogs in our years of owning them. The book is appropriately called Pure Joy.  

I've also written 18 children's books, most recently Pretty Minnie in Paris and Pretty Minnie in Hollywood, about my two-pound white teacup long haired Chihuahua, Minnie--who owns me! (In the book, Minnie lives in Paris and wears pretty clothes!)  

Readers, thank you all for reading my books, and for all that you have shared with me throughout the years! Love, Danielle 

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