Danielle Steel Vs. Nora Roberts
Maybe that title isn't fair, seeing as how these two authors are in different categories. Yet, I've seen interviews where each have been asked questions not so subtly referencing the other's methods of writing. I've seen an interview where Nora Roberts was asked if she wrote more than one novel at a time and her thoughts of the subject, in which most people have knowledge that Danielle Steel writes at least three books at the same time and usually takes three years to finish one. In that interview Ms. Roberts went on to say that she personally didn't do this since she felt that she should concentrate on one back at a time so that the book she's writing gets her full attention. Was that a dig at Steel? I don't think so, I just believe that she's telling the truth, but can you take it as dig? Of course you can. Was the motive of the question even directed as Steel? Who knows... Many of Danielle Steel's readers ask her if she would consider writing a sequel to any of her novels but on her official websites she's made this statement, "What has always convinced me not to do a sequel of any of my books is that it's an invitation to comparison. And if they loved the first book, there's a strong chance that they won't like the sequel to it as much." She goes on to explain why, but you get the point. Nora Roberts fans, however, would disagree with that point vehemently. A bigger question would be--do Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts share any fans?
That's a good question.
My answer would be yes, and I would also think that, like me, if you're fans of both, and you indulge in both their novels, you have a different appreciation for both their styles of writing. They both began trying to publish novels at around the same time period (during the late '70s, early '80s) and they both write in the genre of romance, but don't get it twisted, they're styles are like night and day.
Danielle Steel, although has millions of readers around the world and has millions of her books in print, she is not a great writer. There! I said it! I think that she has a kind of poetic prose to her writing that can pull a reader in to some degree, but the most I can say about the reason why I read her books is that they are addicting. Reading her books are like reading trashy tabloids or indulging in chocolate or ice cream when you know you shouldn't. While her older work was better, I would never compare its written style and plots with let's say a John Grisham, Gregory Maguire or a Stephen King novel. Not even a Nora Roberts novel. Steel's writing is very shallow; she writes a lot of shallow characters and there are lots of shallow characterizations throughout her books. She loves to speak of their "pedigree" and their "breeding" and although I know she's speaking of the blue bloods of society, I always get more than a little disgusted with these depictions and the only thing that gets me through it are picturing these people as dogs or horses (do you get it?); is that stuff even considered a compliment anymore? She will more than likely lead her stories with her characters' physical appearances and they are usually very beautiful and perfect, almost ethereal type women. Only once has any of her main female characters not been a beautifully described woman of some sort and that was in her novel Big Girl, about a woman struggling with her weight and family issues. More often, she uses the word "lithe" to describe her female characters and they usually have either long dark hair or long blond hair and she will go on to describe their eyes--she emphasizes these details very much so in her books, usually every few chapters or so, so you won't forget their physical attributes (probably because they're most important to her). I usually have very little emotional connection to the characters, there's just never enough substance to them for me to feel very much for them at all. Their personalities usually consist of only what tragedies she decides to assign to them, but they all seem very cookie cutter. The author herself never seems to be able to understand why people feel that she writes the same books over and over again, just changing up her characters' names and conflicts. She's even gone on to say, "How can they seem to be the same book? I've written from both men's and women's point of views, of different age groups and in different places and circumstances. How can they say it's the same book?" She really doesn't get it. One reason people say that is because she seems to have three main themes in her books: wealth and/or privileged background, death, and mother issues. Out of all the forty-eight books of hers that I have read, not one of her main female characters was a strong willed, independent voice. They always either seemed strong somewhere in their books and then became weak or they were weak throughout the entire book, the only strength gained when they were in love with a man or all the strength was the man's in the first place. She also seems to think that she's empowering women when she bestows a mountain of wealth on them or once they have some sort of financial stability in her books. This is one of the things that I abhor in her novels--she writes some stupid women as well. There will be an obvious problem and even though her character would be good at her job, she would be so hopelessly in love that would she would allow nearly anything to happen to her just so she would keep the man she's with, no matter how it's hurting her or her children. Two novels of hers that depict this to an almost sickening level are Rogue and Matters of the Heart. The mother in the novel Fine Things was apparently so wrapped up in spending her final months with her husband on the beach that she didn't think to look out for the welfare of her daughter before her death leaving her open to be kidnapped. How can you just happen to forget about your crazy ex-husband who blackmailed you for joint custody of your child? That should have been one of the main loose ends that character tied up before her death or died trying.
Another reason why people criticize her novels and say that they all seem like carbon copies is because they seem to be all written from her point of view. Most of her characters aren't all that different. She may change up the cities (San Francisco, New York, or Paris), and she may give them different careers, but they're all very similar to one another. They all conduct themselves in an almost aristocratic manner, and if you know anything about the author herself you would know that's also how Steel grew up and still lives to this day. The women in the books seem almost "pure". They hardly ever do anything wrong, something bad will happen to them, and they will usually overcome it somehow. They are the epitome of perfect people and you can't help but believe that maybe this is how Steel sees herself in some way--that's it's not her that does anything wrong, it's always other people (that's just pure speculation on my part, btw). The only way her female characters have happy endings in her eyes is if they end up with a man at the end, even if she has to betrothed them to a random man in the last 10-20 pages of a 300+ page novel. She doesn't write from a relatable person's viewpoint because I don't think that she is relatable to tell you the truth. This is a woman who has been married five times, has nine children, had a nanny for each child as they grew up, is a society woman, owns the Spreckels mansion in San Francisco, and also lives part time in Paris. She grew up with her father mainly in Paris and New York, while her mother was hardly around her after the age of six. She was usually around adults during her childhood and had very little friends. She was also an only child.
In her books, there is also a sense of isolation for most of her characters. Female characters, though they seem perfect, hardly ever have any friends unless they're married and they have other married friends that come over and have dinner parties. It's almost as though she doesn't know how to write a character that would have other associates other than their children or the people they fall in love with, and reading about her life, you can't help but wonder if this somehow reflects her as well. She is an heiress in real life, but the fortune she's acquired today has been on her own, from the sales of her books.
She wants to be compared to better authors, but she should continue to stay in the Jackie Collins category (she's not a very good writer either, but I do indulge in her work every now and again as well) simply because her writing now reads more like a book report. I would hope that an author's work would get better, but hers has become even worse with it's repetitiveness (she will mention the same thing like the color of a character's eyes or their height or something the reader already knows a minimum of five times sometimes) and descriptions. Yet, I continue to read some of her older works that I haven't gotten my hands on thinking maybe, just maybe, it will be an okay read and every now and again, the book isn't totally incredulous. The last book that I read of hers was Five Days in Paris, and it was actually okay unless you count the fact that the main character, a man that time, didn't even realize he was in a bad marriage and had to have his new love interest actually point it out to him. That was just...weird.
Nora Roberts on the other hand...
I love this woman. Not only does she seem down to earth and relatable when you read about her own life, but she is one of the best authors out there. I'm not saying she's one of the best romance novelists, I mean she is one of the best NOVELISTS out here right now. Her books are engaging, her subject matters change so there's always something for everyone, and her characters draw you into their situations so that it makes you feel as though you're taking the journey along with them. She's written over 150 books, and I've only read about a handful of them (I own more than I've read), but they keep you wanting to come back for more.
The main gripe I have is her sequels. It's annoying when I go into a store and I pick up one of her novels and it's the first book in a series of 3, or it's the second, or it's the third. What if I just wanted ONE of them? For instance, I bought the book Red Lily, but it's the third one in the triology and I hate reading things out of sequence and I hate going backwards when I already know how the story as a whole has ended. I own Morrigan's Cross, but if I start reading it, what if, for some odd reason, I can't get the second book and only the third is available? However, I started reading Blood Brothers in the Sign of Seven trilogy and I couldn't put the book down! I can't remember how long it took me to read that book, but I know that after I finished it I couldn't wait for the second installment to come out--which I had to wait about months for. I think I bought BB during late summer or early fall or something and the second book wasn't coming out till May of the next year. That just irritated me, but I grabbed that book up and read it cover to cover the minute i got my hands on it. All the books in that trilogy were terrific including The Hollow and The Pagan Stone. It maybe something that annoys me a tad, but it's also something to look forward to, like a good movie that's coming out in a few months and you're dying to see it, so for many of her other fans I can see how it keeps her reading audience clamoring for more.
She's been married twice, and I find that the story of how she met her second husband was just cute. He was her carpenter that she'd hired and she's quoted as saying in an article that, "...he just kind of never left." For a woman that makes millions from the sales of her books she at least appears to lead a very normal life save for an indulgence in Armani clothes. She grew up an only girl amongst brothers with a strong female figure in her mother and being an only girl I know that that toughened her up. As a matter of fact, I've read quite a few of her interviews and by no means was her father a pushover either. In her novels she writes very strong female characters. They're the kinds of women you want as your friends and sisters; they come across as the types of women that will have your backs when you need them and a listening ear when you need to talk or a shoulder to cry on when you're down. They're just real. They can find their happy endings, but it's not all tied up in finding a man (he's a part of it, but he doesn't completely define their happiness) and it's not all in money. A lot of her characters make a modest living, nothing too over the top. Maybe they're comfortable, but they're not millionaires that don't have to work or have huge inheritances, and usually they have interesting (even if they are everyday) jobs and careers. Even if the jobs she gives them aren't interesting, she gives her characters engaging personalities that shine through the pages. They aren't beaten, frail, dependent women who are lost and always need help, but they can also give their reader courage in their own lives, and I'm not being farfetched with this description.
Unlike Steel, Roberts wrote for Harlequin for many years so the majority of her audience has been following along with her books for many years and they are in reprint often. She's even been plagarized. Even though Roberts called it "mind rape", and I agree, I also think it's the ultimate compliment. Only the best of authors make people want to recreate their work.
All in all, one is my guilty pleasure and the other is my joy. It's not hard to separate the two in my head or my heart. While Steel gives me something to criticize and critique, Roberts gives me something to cherish and relish in. No matter how you take their work, love 'em or hate 'em, you can't deny their successes.
If you're anything like me, there's room for both.