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Did Danielle Steel Overreact?

August 13, 2013
Even though Danielle Steel wrote this novel a few years ago, I'm pretty sure she's still writing books.

Even though Danielle Steel wrote this novel a few years ago, I’m pretty sure she’s still writing books.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about different ways that an author can be a jerk, and this might be (but probably isn’t) one of them.  Famous author Danielle Steel (not to be confused with Danielle from “The Literary Girlfriend”) wrote a really long blog post  about how she hates it when men ask her: “Are you still writing?” 

Danielle Steel did not name the men who asked her that question (that would have made her a jerk).  She has also let a couple people respectfully disagree with her on the comments section of her blog (that also makes her not a jerk).  But I think Danielle Steel overreacted a little bit with her blog post. 

According to Danielle Steel, only men ask her if she is “still writing.”  She believes men would never ask another man the same question.  She also believes men would never ask somebody of a different profession if  he is still doing what he does for a living. Therefore, asking Danielle Steel if she is “still writing” is both condescending and sexist. 

I don’t know.  I’m a man, and I’ve been asked by both men and women if I’m still writing, but the context may be different from Danielle Steel’s.  My acquaintances know that years and years ago I was trying to get a literary agent, and since then I’ve stopped talking about it.  They don’t even know about this blog or my ebooks.  I don’t mention it because I don’t feel like talking about my writing anymore (except to a couple family members).  

The thing is, men often ask other men about how work and hobbies are going.  It’s the first topic of conversation.  If I haven’t seen an acquaintance in a while, one of the first things I ask is “Are you still working at…?” or “Are you still (add verb here)…?”  Then we talk about sports (usually football).  Maybe we’ll talk about family, but that’s only if the conversation is really long (sometime after we discuss politics, religion and maybe abortion). 

Danielle Steel should know this.  She’s a bestselling author (for more information, read her blog post because she describes her success very thoroughly).  I haven’t read any of her books, but I’m guessing she’s written a few male characters in her time.  It’s disappointing that such a prolific author seems to have a basic misconception of what men are like.  It makes me wonder how her male characters sound in her novels.  I may have to read one of her books to find out, or I might ask one of my female friends (my wife hasn’t read any of her books). 

Danielle Steel claims (I think) that women have never asked her if she is still writing.  Part of that might be because she writes for more of a female audience.  Women would be more likely than men to know if Danielle Steel is still writing books.  But some of those same women who haven’t asked Danielle Steel if she is still writing have probably said nasty things about her behind her back.  I know some women do this because I’ve seen a couple Real Housewives episodes. 

I was also surprised at Danielle Steel’s writing style in her blog post.  For one thing, SHE ALL-CAPS LOTS OF WORDS AND PHRASES.  She mentions all of her accomplishments (books sales, how many languages her books have been printed in, how many best sellers she has, she just finished writing a book).  She probably doesn’t need to do this.  Anybody reading her blog probably knows that Danielle Steel is a successful writer.  And most successful writers know that ALL-CAPPING DOESN’T HELP MAKE YOUR POINT!!!!! (neither does using too many exclamation points). 

This (being asked “Are you still writing?”) would be a famous author’s problem.  I have nothing against famous authors because I hope to become one someday (I’d rather be rich then famous, though), but as a writer who struggles to find people who’ll read my stuff (even when it’s free), it makes me a little envious to see a famous author complain about this question.  A snarky tweet about it would have been one thing.  But between all of her generalizations, blanket statements, and ALL CAPS, I thought it might be a parody.  I really hope it’s a parody. 

I have no problem with a famous author overreacting (if Danielle Steel is indeed overreacting).  That is what blogs are for.  If you can’t overreact on your own blog, where can you overreact?  And writers need to overreact sometimes.  At least she didn’t road rage somebody or throw a tantrum at a book signing.  That would be both overreacting and being a jerk.

  1. I think the problem is having a primarily female audience in fiction. I’m not a fan of romances or thrillers, so I might ask the same thing even though I’m a woman. The only book I’ve read of hers was “Scruples”, which I liked, but I like other types of books more and haven’t gone back. Maybe the man remembered a book that was more famous than her current writings and asked. Sounds like overreacting until you wonder about how often it happens. Conclusion for me = shrug

  2. I read some of her books a long time ago, when I was just a kid. If I remember right the boyfriend was an evil scumbag. But that doesn’t mean she thinks all men are…
    I haven’t read her blog, so I’m just taking your interpretation of what she said. I’m a guy, and the first thing everyone asks me is, “do you still do….” whatever it is I once did. Sometimes it’s writing. Sometimes it’s something else. I also always ask anyone who has an interest if they still do what they do. Gender has nothing to do with it.

  3. I quickly skimmed through her post (and some of the comments…talk about women scorned) and noticed two things: there seems to be an immense load of anger at men in general, and Ms Steele and many of her fans seem completely unaware of the fact that nowadays it is the norm for people to not only change jobs, but even their careers (I’m only 31 and are already changing careers for the second time since finishing college). I can understand that she comes from a generation where you picked a job after high school and stuck with it for life, often even with the same company, and in that context it seems like a dumb question (though I’d hesitate to call it insulting), but she needs to realise that for many people today spending ten-plus years in the same career is just plain weird or sometimes simply not possible.

  4. Oh, what I’d give to be asked that question because that would mean I was a traditionally published author rather than self published.

    Like you DL, I am no good at banging on about myself so sales of my book are low. It also seems to divide people … rather like Ms Steele’s stuff.

    Perhaps it was just a slow blog day and she needed something to post. Maybe she just felt like a rant, I know I often do. 😀

    Or maybe she genuinely has a down on men. Perhaps she needs to get over that.

  5. Yeah, I’ll say that her comments reek of “You haven’t heard of my new book and all my success?!” Men probably say it because they are not her main demographic and thus, no, they would not know, whereas women get these books marketed to them and then uh, don’t have to ask. I have a feeling, in her mind, that men are asking her as if it’s a hobby she has and not her job and maybe some of them are. But just because there is sexism doesn’t necessarily mean she isn’t being a big head.

    Great post 🙂

  6. Even famous authors can have days when they feel victims of ageism and sexism – key word being feel here. Which can lead to a failure of confidence, which can lead one to start bragging about past accomplishments.

    However, I agree with you that this makes her sound rather tone deaf to male communication because this is a standard type of question. I like stopping by and seeing the world through your prism, glad you share your writing with us even if you don’t with folks you know (I get that too, it can be rather exhausting to talk about writing with non-writing family and friends).

  7. I’ve never heard of Danielle Steel. Don’t tell her that, she’ll think it’s sexist. (sheesh)

  8. Why are you reading Danielle Steele’s blog?

    • Haha! That’s a good question. NPR’s website mentioned her blog post and provided a link. I can’t listen to NPR on the radio (the voices put me to sleep), but I like its website. NPR mentioned Danielle Steel’s topic, but there was no discussion about the merits of what she wrote.

  9. I think she over-reacted, both because “Are you still writing?” is not such a stupid question; yes, perhaps writers don’t retire the same way other professions might, but other people might not know that. Plus, I really don’t see what gender has to do with it. I guess everyone has their own perspective on things, and maybe only guys ask her that. Meh.

  10. I don’t see the sexism here nor a a reason for her to be offended. I’ve also yet to read any of her work, so maybe I don’t understand her. Is that her schtick?

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