On His Books and Autobiography
You've written for the stage, screen and television, yet you enjoy writing novels the most. Why is that?
I love the freedom that the narrative form provides. When you write a movie, you have a hundred collaborators. But when you write a novel, it's yours. There's this sense of excitement because you invent and control the characters. You decide whether they live or die. I find this type of creative process tremendously stimulating.
You have sold over 300 million books, published in 51 languages in 181 countries worldwide. To what do you attribute this international appeal?
I think people throughout the world identify with my characters. Perhaps it's because the characters in my books are more than just "all good" or "all bad." I try to give both my heroes and villains an emotional dimensionality which provides the motivation for their actions.
My works have often been characterized by book reviewers as "can't-put-down-reads." I think that's because believable action is based on authenticity, and accuracy is very important to me. I always spend time researching my novels, exploring the customs and attitudes of the county I'm using for their setting. I go to great lengths to make certain situations feel right to the reader. I think readers can always tell when an author is "faking it," and that undermines the story, no matter how good it may be.
Your novels have also affected people's lives in some rather interesting ways. Can you tell us about that?
The part of my writing I find the most rewarding is when people write to me or speak to me in public to tell me how his or her life has been changed by my books. I received a letter from a girl in a hospital telling me that she had suffered a massive heart attack at the age of 21 and had felt that she just wanted to give up and die. She wouldn't see her parents or her boyfriend. She just wanted to get her life over with. Then someone left a copy of THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT on her bed. She picked it up and began to read. She got so caught up in the characters and the story that she forgot about herself and felt ready to begin facing life again.
Another woman approached me while I was having lunch at the Russian Tea Room in New York and told me that the reason she had become a lawyer was because she had read RAGE OF ANGELS. To me, that kind of feedback has more meaning than any sales figures.
The main character in your novels is usually a female who is a survivor against all odds. Is there a reason for that?
It's never been a conscious decision. I think it's because I really don't believe in the "dumb blonde" myth. The fact that my female characters have strong personalities but are also physically attractive probably reflects the women I've known in my life.
My mother, who was faced with raising a family during the Depression and worked at a retail store until she was in her 70's, my late wife, Jorja, and my current wife, Alexandra, epitomize the type of woman who is intelligent, purposeful and resourceful, but never at the expense of her femininity.
What's next for Sidney Sheldon?
Interview with KaceyKowars.com (February 15 , 2006)
USAToday.com Interview (October 19, 2002)