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ROTFLOL and . . . LATWTTB January 18, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Humor, Writing & Writers.

150px-Carlo_Crivelli_052One of my pet peeves in the publishing arena is the proclivity of publishers to publish “bad books” by known authors rather than stellar books by unknown authors.

Of course, if I were in the business to make money, I might do the same.

A related pet peeve is the proclivity of known authors to stop producing their “best work” because they know that any book with their name on the cover will sell millions of copies.

As a teen, I read Danielle Steel’s novels and enjoyed them.  No longer.  Either her writing has deteriorated over time (because her name, not the story, sells), or I’ve changed my reading preferences.  I expect it’s a bit of both.

A few months ago, I  pulled a Danielle Steel novel we inherited with the villa off the shelf and start reading.  I managed to read Chapter One before derisive laughter at her characters inspired me to close the cover (for good) and turn out the light.  By that point, a mere twenty-six pages into the book, I had realized that The Wedding should be re-titled, The Farce: A Fairy Tale of Epic Proportions.

The heroine, Allegra, a long-legged beauty who, of course, is oblivious to her looks, practices law at “one of the most important firms in L.A.”

Her clients – a number of important stars and musicians – have catapulted her into a position as junior partner with the firm, despite her tender age of 29!

LOL!  At 29, most law school graduates are junior associates with no client base of their own, and they aren’t practicing with the most prestigious firm in Hometown USA – much less L.A..

Her father (“a major movie producer”) has made “some of Hollywood’s most important movies.”  Her mother “has written and produced one of the most successful shows on television for nine years.”  Between them, they have earned Emmys (or is it Emmies?) and Golden Globes and Oscars too numerous to count.

And, of course, unlike all the other marriages in Hollywood, their union is based on mutual respect, admiration, and love!  And they are respected in the business.  And their looks have not faded one iota ~ they are still as gorgeous as teens and the envy of all of their friends.  And all three of their children adore them, and each other, with no sibling rivalry what-so-ever.

Ain’t life grand?

Allegra’s younger brother, well on his way to becoming an orthopedic surgeon, wants nothing to do with Show Biz.  Nevertheless, he flies across country, away from his strenuous medical studies, for the weekend, to watch The Golden Globes with his younger sister . . . at home, on TV!

The younger sister – as gorgeous as Allegra – is a teen model whose “real identity” (as the daughter of two prominent personalities around town) is hidden from the press and paparazzi.

Like Ms. Steel’s readers, the press and paparazzi are easily fooled, eh?

Are you buying it?  Or are you “rolling on the floor laughing your ass off” at the unlikelihood of such a “functional” family unit existing in Hollywood (a virtual training ground for dysfunctional families)?

Allegra has been in a series of failed relationships ~ first with a professor at Yale (who ended their “affair filled with lust, excitement, and passion” when his wife got pregnant with their second child while they were “hiking through Nepal” on sabbatical), then with a commitment-phobic director (who left her “beautiful behind” behind when he moved to London), and now with an attorney, Brandon, also married with child, who (after two years of separation) is no closer to filing the divorce papers.

Brandon, a dour litigation attorney with no sense of humor, looks down his nose, in condescension, at Allegra’s practice since it involves, among other things, taking phone calls at 2 AM from frightened stars who are paranoid that stalkers are outside their bedroom windows, despite the fact that Allegra has already arranged for security alarms, bars, and roving Dobermans to guard the premises so that the stars – and Allegra! – can get some sleep.

While we all might agree that some degree of condescension is warranted, given the lack of actual legal work in her “challenging” entertainment practice, why would practically-perfect-in-every-way Allegra hook up with someone who disregards her needs on a routine basis, and isn’t even fun to be around? 

As Dr. Phil would say, “Kick him to the curb and get on with your life!”

Dr. Green, the therapist that Allegra is seeing, agrees with Dr. Phil ~ yes, a chink in our Stainless Steel heroine’s life.  Allegra has been seeing a therapist for four years.  Excellent!  Real life drama at last ~ except that the conversations between Allegra and her therapist (which revolve around her less-than-stellar choice in dating material) end up covering the same ground (Brandon! Brandon! Brandon!) visit after visit.

Despite his unwillingness to file for divorce, Allegra remains convinced that Brandon (the dour divorce-challenged dork) is worth all the bad feelings that he generates.  “Marriage had just been too confining and too traumatic.  And he is afraid to make another mistake.”

Allegra, Yale Law School graduate, is convinced that Dr. Green “just doesn’t understand Brandon’s motivations, or how traumatized he had been by having to get married when his wife was pregnant.”

LOL!  If your therapist doesn’t understand underlying human motivations, perhaps it’s time to hire a new therapist!

But, wait, there’s more ~ and this is the kicker:

The Wedding, a farcical look at life, love, and the pursuit of happiness, not only garnered a spot on the New York Times Bestseller List . . . it claimed the #1 position.

Yup, while I’m ROTFLMAO, Danielle Steel is LATWTTB! – “laughing all the way to the bank!”

No rules.  Just write!

Related posts: Destiny’s Destination * Andrew Zimmern’s Picks Don’t AppealThe Clean (Book)Plate Club * A Writer’s Life For MeAusten & Dickens Had It Easy * Eavesdropping on the Rooftop Literati *


1. timkeen40 - January 18, 2011

I agree. I think all publishers should quit publishing known authors. Maybe I will get a look by them, then.

Also, I have never quite an affair filled with lust, excitement, and passion in my life. I had to be dragged from them kicking and screaming.

Thanks for the great post. I really enjoyed it.


nrhatch - January 18, 2011

Thanks, Tim!

There are many authors who, once successful, just crank out book after book without the same effort they took at the outset of their careers. John Grisham’s early books rocked. Now they are rarely a “rollicking good read.”

It’s sad that professionalism falls prey to profit in publishing and other occupations.

Maybe you would have left such an affair . . . if you were trekking through Nepal with your pregnant wife on sabbatical. LOL!

2. Debra - January 18, 2011

I, too, read some Danielle in my teens. And no more. I think I changed and I know her writing has.

Sad all the way around

nrhatch - January 18, 2011

I wonder if I had started The Wedding as a teen, if I would have enjoyed reading it?

Probably. 😉

I do think that these books tend to create unrealistic expectations in young women about what to look for in romantic partners. I know it did me.

Fortunately, I had some wonderful real life role models that revealed the keys to lasting happiness.

3. Maggie - January 18, 2011

I’m experiencing the same phenomenon with Stephen King. I really like his older stuff, but the newer books are just kind of… meh.

nrhatch - January 18, 2011

At some point, don’t they have ENOUGH money to retire . . . or at least slow down enough to write worthy words again?

nrhatch - January 18, 2011

I suspect it’s an Ego thing . . . once you’ve hit #1 on the Bestseller List, everything else pales in comparison.

Paula Tohline Calhoun - January 18, 2011

Except many of them don’t write for the money (i.e. S. King, to hear him tell it), but they write because they write – all the time. It is their way of life. King’s style has definitely changed, but in many ways, I am liking it more. I believe that he has challenged himself to write more finely honed characters and story lines. I really enjoyed “Under the Dome.” It is probably my favorite since “The Stand,” my all-time favorite King.

I’m wondering if Steele (I don’t read her. I think I might have tried one once, but I too found it laughable) has turned to the “James Patterson style.” He now puts his name on books that other writers are writing for him. Doing this I suppose so he can churn out something every 2 or 3 months. His first couple of novels were good. After that, forget it! I also think that Grisham sort of dwindled in the last several books, but “The Confession” is his best in a long time. He has returned to his legal thrillers – a good move. It’s what he does best. Dean Koontz went through the same sort of thing. His first 3 or 4 were lots of fun to read, but until recently – with “Breathless” – he had become formulaic and downright boring. So maybe it’s a writer’s mid-life crisis that the most prolific authors all go through. The authors who only publish once a year or once every 5 years or so tend to put out much better work. The time spent on the writing shows.

I am most disgusted with the children’s book publishing companies. They keep putting out tripe because it has been written by some celebrity or other. These people appear to wake up one morning and decide they are going to write a children’s book. They aren’t smart enough to know it is one of the most difficult types of book to write. I have an incredibly talented friend who is a children’s book author and illustrator – Jean Gralley (look her up!) – who has written several fabulous books for young children, all of which are given top reviews, 5 stars, the whole 9 yards, but the publishers NEVER MARKET THEM ONCE THEY ARE PUBLISHED! I don’t understand why they would shoot themselves in the foot like that. I am sure there are lots of writers out there who are equally good or better than those getting published and marketed, but the pubs. refuse to support them. Oh well, that’s life. I think the best thing to happen to writers is the advent of e-publishing.

nrhatch - January 18, 2011

Superb comment, Paula.

I’ve never read King, but I agree with you about Patterson, Grisham, and Koontz. Only I didn’t know that Confession and Breathless were an improvement because they lost me as a reader years ago.

Maybe, at some point, they feel guilty about the crap they are putting their names on and start writing for real again? 😉

Did you know that Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs & Ham on a dare? Someone said that he could NOT write a children’s book using only 50 words. So he wrote Green Eggs & Ham ~ my favorite!

Aah, celebrities in one sphere become automatic celebrities in others. Very annoying, indeed. And so many of them do it. I wonder if Paul McCartney actually believes that his paintings are worth more than the signature affixed to them?

4. poeticinteraction - January 18, 2011

What does this mean? I would like to get the joke?

Yup, while I’m ROTFLMAO!

5. nrhatch - January 18, 2011

Hey LL ~ Do you mean the “text speak”?

ROTFLMAO = rolling on the floor laughing my ass off
LATWTTB – laughing all the way to the bank

poeticinteraction - January 18, 2011

Thanks. I thought it was meant to be funny. One way of another, I’m glad that everybody mentioned is laughing.

nrhatch - January 18, 2011

I agree. Danielle Steel probably isn’t too worried about what I think about her writing these days . . . too busy counting her money. 😉

6. Carol Ann Hoel - January 18, 2011

I wonder sometimes if publishers demand their authors produce novels in too short a time period, thus jeopardizing the author’s quality of work. If I never sell a novel, I’ll at least be glad that I won’t face a publisher’s deadline. I know, I’m such a sissy. Ha! But really, I think it would be difficult to write with a deadline over your head.

Every job I’ve ever had involved deadlines, and that wasn’t a bad thing. Still writing a novel with a deadline. Uh.

On the other hand, my favorite mystery author, Sue Grafton, has written probably 20 novels, and all of them were good.

I enjoyed your version of The Wedding by Danielle Steel. I worked in law offices for years and what you said about junior partners was very true in my experience. Junior partners had no time for romance or anything else but practicing law. They worked sometimes 14 to 16 hours a day. Blessings, Nancy…

nrhatch - January 18, 2011

I expect that you are right ~ publishers want the top “talents” in their stable to run at breakneck speed to crank out a new title every few months. Must be exhausting.

But, as an author, once you have enough wealth from royalties, why keep doing it? Just Say NO!

As a 29 year old lawyer, I worked about 80 hours a week . . . and my work didn’t involve catering to the needs of rock stars and celebrities. 😉

Carol Ann Hoel - January 18, 2011

I was a legal secretary in litigation. No wonder you knew what was wrong with a novel about a young lawyer.

nrhatch - January 18, 2011

Where was the firm? Florida?

Allegra probably got hired for her “connections” through her parents. Sometimes, it’s not what you know . . . it’s who you know. 😉

7. Paula Tohline Calhoun - January 18, 2011

I knew that about Dr. Seuss. Great story. The problem these days is that if someone equally talented were given the same challenge, their product would never see the light of day because they hadn’t starred in 15 “B” movies yet, or were not the child of a political figure. You’re right – it happens in all genres – painting, too. Lots of movie stars have tried their hand at painting with more or less success, but most of it has only novelty value to me. Check out “The Confession.” I really liked it. I can also recommend some “non-scary or violent” King that you might like! 😀

nrhatch - January 18, 2011

Thanks, Paula. At the moment, my reading material far exceeds the time I have to devote to it ~ one reason why I the Times list didn’t persuade me to add to my reading list.

I want to read or re-read every book in the villa before seeking out new material. I’ll keep your offer in mind when I catch up a bit.

I think that Dr. Seuss might still have made a name for himself, even in this publishing market. His illustrations alone would make me want to buy his books.

8. suzicate - January 18, 2011

I agree. I went to a writer’s conference last year and one of the work shop facilitors was a well known mystery romance writer…her work shop was on grammar. what a laugh, she handed out papers with grammatical errors all over it, no she did not realize it. My friend and I checked out her web site, same thing! Now, don’t ask me what that has to do with Danielle Steele! I don’t know, but it came to mind when I read this.

nrhatch - January 18, 2011

That’s too funny!

I saw the same sort of thing once on the website of a vanity publisher who admonished writers to “proofrede befour submiting.” 🙂

I will say this for Danielle Steel . . . in the 26 pages I read, I didn’t see a profusion of typos.

9. MyLiteraryCoach - January 18, 2011

In hopes of adding to the discussion: we often expect publishers to keep the torch burning for literary achievement. Instead they are structured as new product sales operations–and then do seemingly little to actually make the sales. This, of course, leads to selecting popular or well-known authors. I guess that is the reason I find mid-sized publishers to be more exciting.

nrhatch - January 18, 2011

I agree. Smaller publishing houses are more focused on product quality rather than sheer name recognition.

Thanks for commenting!

10. Cindy - January 18, 2011

Just goes to show how badly readers favour escapism.

nrhatch - January 18, 2011

Just so. 🙂

11. Julie - January 18, 2011

Ah, the Danielle Steele of yore. My coming of age is all wrapped up in her earlier work – Palomino anyone? But you’re right – now you can’t even read it for guilty pleasure because it’s no longer pleasurable.

You’d think if you had more money than God based on all of the books you’ve already written, you could slow down and focus more on quality rather than quantity. Some authors like Steele (and I don’t know if she is one of them) don’t even write their own books anymore. They just have their names on the cover. That’s why they can churn out 4 books a year. Cough… James Patterson.. cough, Nora Roberts…cough, cough…

What amazes me is the sheer number of people who buy these books. In hardcover, no less!

nrhatch - January 19, 2011

Awesome comment, Julie. Cough is right.

Ken Follett started doing that, but at least the name of his “co-author” is on the cover so that buyers can beware. Shame on the rest of them for lending their names to formulaic work that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

The number of their books that continue to sell amazes me too. Well, judging from the advent of Reality TV . . . the discerning public is none too discerning.

12. M. Howalt - January 19, 2011

I wholeheartedly agree. Yes, chances are if someone is a really good and well-known author that they will produce more works worth publishing. But sometimes they don’t. And most of us would probably rather read a good book than a good name.
Great post!

nrhatch - January 19, 2011

Thanks, M. When we stop buying “bad books” and watching “bad TV” . . . publishers and producers will make changes because they don’t want to lose viewers and readers.

But change comes slowly when the masses keep lapping up the spoiled milk.

13. Aligaeta - January 19, 2011

I have always disliked Danielle Steele novels, one was enough for me.
Now, Jackie Collins of which I read plenty in my late teens and early twenties did not prepare me to be a young suburban mother/housewife. It left me wondering what I am doing with this man? What am I doing in this life I’ve created for myself?
I recently read a blog about creating the early twenties genre and realized their should at least be reality ratings on books for the naive reader.

14. Greg Camp - January 19, 2011

I, by contrast, take about three years to write a novel, so mine must be good. . .

Regarding “The Wedding,” though, I’d likely have dropped it upon seeing the name of the character. I’m supposed to spend time with someone who’s named after an allergy medication? Her next characters will be Benadryl and Advil.

nrhatch - January 19, 2011

Bwahahaha! Maybe the medicine is named after the character? 😉

And, I expect that your novels are quite good.

15. jannatwrites - April 28, 2011

Okay, my head is spinning…all that drama after 26 pages? Yikes!

I didn’t know that some of the big names didn’t even write their own stuff anymore. Very interesting…

I read another author whose stories I enjoyed, but after reading four books with the same formula, it wasn’t fun anymore. (Independent girl gets in trouble, hunky guy doesn’t want to babysit her but for some reason is forced to anyway, they fall in lust, he saves her and they live happily ever after.) Ugh.

nrhatch - April 29, 2011

Names sell books . . . even if the books are horrid.

I inherited another book by Danielle Steel, Sunset over St. Tropez. Even worse than The Wedding. I went to Amazon to see what kind of reviews it/she got. Most of the 1 and 2 star reviews echoed my concerns ~ cardboard characters and formulaic plots which lack any depth.

And still people buy her books . . . go figure!

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